The head of the Confederation of Czech Trade Unions, Jaroslav Zavadil, has threatened to call a general strike if the Czech government goes adopt controversial changes to the labour code. Mr Zavadil told reporters at a Social Democrat party conference in Olomouc on Saturday that a general strike was an option if the right-of-centre cabinet allows employers to fire employees without stating a reason, and to repeatedly give employees contracts for a definite period.
Some 40,000 trade union members took to the streets of Prague earlier this week in protest against planned 10-percent cuts in salaries of state employees.
In related news, the opposition Social Democrats held a party conference in the Moravian city of Olomouc on Saturday. The conference focused on reshaping the party’s policies following May’s general elections, which the party won but was unable to form a government. The acting Social Democrat chair, Bohuslav Sobotka, said the party needed to form a credible alternative to the right-of-centre government which he criticized for massive budget cuts. Mr Sobotka admitted that budget deficits were “the biggest enemy of welfare state” but his party should come up with sophisticated and well though-out austerity measures.
Czech President Václav Klaus is set to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Saturday. The current UN session is focusing on a reform of global governance, a principle President Klaus attacked in a lecture he delivered earlier this week in the US. At John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Mr Klaus said global governance was one of the most dangerous ideas of recent times, labelling it “complete left-wing cosmopolitan nonsense”. After Mr Klaus’ speech, the Czech delegation to the UN will return to Prague.
The Czech opt-out from the EU’s Lisbon treaty, demanded by President Klaus in return for the document’s ratification, is under threat, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Saturday. The opt-out is supposed to be ratified as part of the EU’s accession treaty with Croatia. The paper said however that the EU is now considering excluding it from the accession treaty, and start its ratification process independently. In such case, the Czech opt-out would most likely be rejected by a number of EU member states.
Václav Klaus refused last year to finalize the Lisbon treaty’s ratification process unless an opt-out form the Charter of Fundamental Rights is granted to the Czech Republic. The opt-out should shield the country from possible restitution demands by ethnic Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the end of the Second World War.
Several candidates for the post of Prague mayor met in a public debate in the capital on Saturday, as part an event promoting cycling. The mayoral hopefuls included former Czech central bank governor Zdeněk Tůma, who runs for the conservative TOP 09 party, Civic Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, Social Democrat Karel Březina and Petra Kolínská from the Green Party. The candidates talked mostly about public space and transport issues in the capital. Local elections in the Czech Republic are held on October 15 and 16; according to polls, the Civic Democrats, who have dominated Prague City Hall since the fall of communism, are losing ground to the newcomers, TOP 09.
In related news, Czech Transport Minister, Vít Bárta, along with the ambassadors of Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands took part in an event promoting cycling in the Prague neighbourhood of Vinohrady on Saturday. The event entitled “Experience the City Differently” closed several major streets to cars and filled them with cyclists instead. Organizers said people should learn to use other means of transport than just cars. The event was accompanied by a number of art shows and performances.
A court in Břeclav, southern Moravia, sent a town hall clerk from another Moravian town Znojmo, to jail on Saturday, pending investigation of alleged corruption. Another four people are being investigated for bribery; none of them are elected officials. The arrested man, Tomáš Krejčír, has also been charged with abuse of power. The police raided Znojmo town hall earlier this week and said they found evidence of corruption in the departments focusing on property development.
Czech women’s national basketball team lost to Russia 52:55 in Brno on Friday, in their second game at the world championship hosted by the Czech Republic. The Czech team took an early lead but the strong favourite from Russia soon took over, and were leading by 11 point at half time. The best player on the Czech team was the captain, Hana Horáková who scored 21 points. The Czechs however secured a spot in the round of 16 even before their last game on group stage in which they will play Japan on Saturday.
Slavia Prague manager Karel Jarolím said he would offer to step down following Friday’s 3:0 defeat by Slovácko in the top Czech division. The top flight club Slavia on Friday failed to win for the sixth time in a row and ranks 10th after ten rounds of the top division, 15 points behind league leaders Plzeň. Jarolím, who joined Slavia in 2005, has won league titles and reached the Champions League. Last season he left the top flight club in March over poor results only to come back two months later.
Czech tennis player Petra Zakopalová advanced to the final at the Korea Open tournament in Seoul on Saturday after her opponent, top seed Nadia Petrova from Russia, withdrew in the first set due to an illness. Zakopalová, seeded ninth, was leading 5-4 in the first set. The 28-year-old Czech will face fifth seed Alisa Klebanova, from Russia, in Sunday’s final.
The weekend will be mostly overcast and cloudy, with rain showers across the country. Highest day temperatures should range between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.