Around a fifth of the Czech Republic’s teachers, some 20,000 people, will be participating in Wednesday’s hour-long strike, unions report. As many as 1,600 schools will remain closed until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, when the government is set to discuss changes to teachers’ salary tables. Another thousand schools will open on time but will not hold class for one hour. Most of the striking schools are in north-eastern and South Moravia, with considerably less participation in Prague. The unions are protesting a proposal to leave teachers’ salaries to the discretion of headmasters rather than their length of service. The proposal would affect primarily older teachers, who statistics show make up more than half of the teaching force. In theory, many teachers could lose 4,600 crowns off their pay, the unions have said.
Social Democrat deputy chairman Jeroným Tejc has been elected to head the party’s parliamentary club, replacing party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr Sobotka recently left the position in order to concentrate on his primary post and on next year’s district and Senate elections. Mr Tejc, who was the only candidate for the senior party post, received 48 of 51 votes, according to the daily Právo.
The artist known as Roman Týc has been sentenced to one month in prison for failing to pay a fine imposed for one of his stunts. The best known of the Ztohoven guerrilla art collective, Týc was fined 60,000 crowns in 2007 for replacing the red and green figures on dozens of pedestrian crossings with various ridiculous images – legless or hanged men for example. The judge admitted that the public had appreciated the act, but said the city had incurred damages of 82.000 crowns. The artist publically refused to pay the fine, explaining that he had set the figures on signal lights free. Ztohoven and Týč have been on court on numerous occasions before, most notably after hacking into a live weather programme on Czech Television and broadcasting an atomic explosion.
Charges of attempted fraud and bribery have been brought in connection with a Czech military order for Tatra lorries. The Ostrava state prosecutor’s office told the Czech Press Agency CTK on Tuesday that they suspect that one person demanded five million dollars from a senior manager of the Tatra company under the false pretext that he would use his influence to eliminate business troubles connected to the order. The names of the persons charged cannot be divulged, however the media has widely speculated that they include former defence minister Martin Bartak and his acquaintance, armament company owner Michal Smrz.
Police President Petr Lessy will retain his position after reaching an organisational agreement with Interior Minister Jan Kubice. Mr Kubice said Monday that communication between the two had improved and that he appreciated the positive approach that the police president took in his proposal for personnel changes at the police presidium. The new proposal entails primarily cutting one deputy and 100 other posts at the presidium, which Mr Lessy had previously feared could bring instability. The Interior Minister had previously been calling for Mr Lessy to step down due to disagreements over the institution’s reorganisation.
Culture Minister Jiří Besser has denied allegations of corruption and says he will resign if incriminating evidence emerges. Mr Besser admitted on Friday that he had neglected to claim part ownership in a US-based company and property in Florida worth 230,000 dollars in his property statement, and said it was an oversight on his part. Head of the TOP 09 parliamentary club Petr Gazdík said he was content with the evidence the culture minister had provided in his defence, but objected to his connection to another co-owner in the firm, Pavel Hrách, who was recently convicted of corruption. Mr Besser has said the company never undertook any business activity and generated no profit, but says he is prepared to take legal responsibility for his mistake.
The government’s economic advisory board NERV and the Finance Ministry are considering measures which would help the Czech Republic overcome economic difficulties in Europe, Monday’s Hospodářské noviny reports. Amongst other things they include the enactment of balanced budgets, introducing a flat VAT rate of up to 20 percent and shortening the working week for companies. According to the paper, the council has prepared three scenarios including one for the eventuality of the collapse of the eurozone. The Finance Ministry is going to submit its detailed plans in January 2012.
The Association of Dialysis Centres has warned that health care reforms will cause certain facilities to go bankrupt next near and others to limit their number of patients. The cuts, it says, will mean serious economic problems for the centres, which in turn will have a negative impact on contractors, employees and renters and destabilise the entire system. The Health Ministry, however, insists on the reduction, arguing that dialysis is one of the areas that have been given preferential treatment in the past. The ministry plans to increase funding for hospitals alone next year, with other sectors having to wait until 2013.
The new council at Prague City Hall has begun working on its policy statement, which covers its plans for the next eight years. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said it was important that the policy plans go beyond the current term of office in light of the current economic situation. Individual councillors have begun offering the mayor proposals for the sectors entrusted them, foremost amongst those being construction adaptations, investments and the operation of the city amid the current economic climate. Some of the new councillors have indicated transportation priorities such as the completion of metro line A and the Blanka tunnel complex, as well as anti-corruption and fiscal responsibility measures.
The Prague transit authority has cancelled a questionable contract for supplies of passenger tickets. Several criminal complaints have been filed regarding the contract and the diversion of money tied to it to the British Virgin Islands. The contracted company, Neograph, itself moved to terminate the contract two weeks ago, and admitted that the tickets, sold for tens of millions of crowns, were twice as expensive as they should have been. The outgoing director of the Prague Public Transport Company, Martin Dvořák, said that he wanted to definitively resolve the situation before handing over the company’s reins on Monday.