Czech Airlines has cancelled 25 flights due to a protest by its pilots. Up to 40 flights would be cancelled on Thursday, which is around half of all Czech Airlines flights from and to Prague’s Ruzyně airport, a spokesman for the pilots’ labour union said. Around a hundred pilots have co-ordinately taken sick leaves to protest against a transfer of aircraft to a charter carrier affiliated with Czech Airlines, a move they described as the beginning of Czech Airlines’ liquidation. A spokeswoman for Czech Airlines said the firm did not understand the reasons behind the protest and would punish the pilots participating in the action.
The Czech Republic’s corruption ranking has worsened for the third year in a row, according to the annual list compiled by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. The country fell from 53rd to 57th place in the ranking of 178 countries this year. Its former federal partner Slovakia ranked 66th. The Czech Republic is among the worst ranked countries in the EU and Europe in general, even though the government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas has identified the fight against corruption as one of its priorities. Denmark, New Zealand and Finland were perceived as the least corrupt countries.
The Czech military is able to send a maximum of 30 doctors to Slovakia, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra and Health Minister Leoš Heger agreed on Thursday. The Czech Republic will send military doctors to the neighbouring country to step in temporarily for their colleagues if the Slovak government asks for help. Slovak doctors are quitting en masse in a labour dispute over low salaries; two months ago over a thousand of them handed in their notices which have just expired.
The Finance Ministry has said the Czech state budget deficit increased to 126 billion crowns in November from 91.5 billion in October. In November 2010 the state budget deficit stood at almost 141 billion crowns. The state budget deficit approved for 2011 is 135 billion crowns. The ministry says an expected 20-billion-crown drop in tax revenue will be compensated for by savings in government spending.
The Czech ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský has said he will examine whether children from different ethnic groups are receiving equal treatment in primary schools. A survey will be carried out in over 50 schools around the Czech Republic and its results will be published in May. The Czech Republic has been criticized repeatedly for alleged discrimination concerning equal access to education. The European Court of Human Rights stated in 2007 that Czech Roma children were excessively placed in practical, or special, schools intended primarily for children with learning difficulties.
According to a worldwide survey carried out by the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, 29 percent of Czech companies have fallen victim to economic crime in the past two years. Among the 3877 companies surveyed 84 were from the Czech Republic. Compared to the previous poll in 2009, the number has increased by a fifth with computer crime taking an ever larger share. 75 percent of cases of economic crime experienced by Czech companies have included embezzlement, followed by accounting fraud, corruption and bribery.
The Social Democrat members of the constitutional committee in the lower house of parliament have prevented the body from recommending that the house approve a direct presidential election. They voted against the amendment to the Czech constitution on Thursday. Social Democrat MP Jeroným Tejc said a number of his party’s proposals had not been approved and therefore Thursday’s move was intended to make room for further negotiations. Observers say that a popular presidential election will never be approved because of a dispute among lawmakers over the competences of a future head of state.
The head of the Prague Public Transport Company Martin Dvořák has resigned from his post, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda told reporters on Thursday. According to Mr Svoboda the company needs a new strategy and Martin Dvořák felt worn-out after serving five years as its head. Speculation about Mr Dvořák’s leaving first arose after the ruling coalition of the Civic and Social Democrats at the Prague City Hall ended earlier this month and was replaced by a centre-right coalition of the Civic Democrats and the TOP 09 party. Several members of the public transport company’s supervisory board have already been replaced since the change occurred. The Prague Public Transport Company is the largest firm run by the capital Prague and receives over 10 billion crowns a year from the city’s budget.
A Czech police labour union has called on Police President Petr Lessy to stay in office in response to Monday’s call by Interior Minister Jan Kubice on Mr Lessy to resign from his post. The coalition party Public Affairs and the opposition Social Democrats have also backed the Police President. Mr Lessy said on Thursday he saw no reason for resignation. Relations have been tense between the Police President and the Interior Minister lately especially after an Interior Ministry committee suggested abolishing hundreds of managerial posts in the police force, a move which according to Mr Lessy would compromise the police force’s performance.
A recent opinion poll carried out by the STEM agency suggests more than two thirds of Czechs believe that unemployment benefits should be lower in order to make people seek jobs actively. Around the same share of those polled said they believed the current level of benefits and welfare did not motivate jobless people to seek employment. 70 percent of respondents said they would prefer minimum benefits which according to them would make people accept less qualified jobs, retrain or relocate. 37 percent believe the current level of unemployment benefits is motivating enough.