The country’s trade unions have said that 100,000 public sector employees will take part in Wednesday’s day-long strike protesting a 10 percent cut by the government in next year’s budget. Union representatives have warned that the cuts, hand-in-hand with an amendment to the Labour Code, will heavily impact public sector salaries.
Speaking at a meeting of the umbrella union ČMKOS on Tuesday, union leader Jaroslav Zavadil said that along with strikers, an additional 100,000 employees not taking part would at least pledge support. He noted that the minister for labour and social affairs had barred employees from some state branches from striking, namely staff at Social Services and Employment Offices. In addition to the strike on Wednesday, demonstrations have been scheduled to take place in 21 towns and cities.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has reacted ahead of Wednesday’s strike by saying the unions were not concerned with employee rights but were trying to set in motion, with help from the leftist opposition, what he described as a ‘political game’ which could have the effect of destabilising the country. In the prime minister’s view, the planned strike – expected to be the biggest since 1989 – has been organised to fuel further protest against the government’s planned reforms. He reiterated his view that austerity measures were needed and stressed the government would not budge on the 10 percent cut which would affect public sector salaries.
In related news, the Czech Patients’ Association has said that it will send staff to hospitals taking part in Wednesday’s strike, to ensure patient care is not compromised. Some hospitals involved will have reduced regimes on the day with staff on duty wearing pins expressing support for strikers; other facilities are planning on full operations as normal. The trade unions have stressed that care for patients during the day-long protest must in no way suffer; the strike, meanwhile, has gotten the full backing of the Czech Medical Chamber.
Czech students have not fared particularly well in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, a study conducted every three years. The latest result released on Tuesday showed that reading literacy among 15-year-olds fell below average, while skills in mathematics and the natural sciences were only average. Czech students’ knowledge, compared to all other OECD countries, had suffered the most Education Minister Josef Dobeš admitted. Ins all, students from 65 countries took part. According to Mr Dobeš, the Czech education system has long lacked a proper framework, a problem not addressed by consecutive ministers, and he called Tuesday’s findings a “bitter pill”. Part of the problem, he suggested, lies in low salaries for teachers as well as disinterest on the part of some parents.
The Czech Republic could increase its contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under certain conditions, Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told journalists in Brussels after a meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday. The possibility of raising contributions paid by EU member states to the IMF is being discussed in connection with the current crisis in the eurozone. Mr Kalousek said he could imagine the Czech Republic raising its contribution but only provided it was not direct payment. The only possibility, he said, was using foreign currency reserves of the Czech National Bank, something the bank would have to sanction. Mr Kalousek cited the situation last year when the Czech National Bank provided a loan of about 25.1 billion crowns to the IMF in light of the economic crisis. The amount was a part of a broader package on which G20 countries agreed in April 2009.
Czech industrial output rose by 6.9 percent in October year-on-year, according to government figures released on Tuesday. The increase was lower than the previous month when production rose by 12.4 percent. Growing production in October was driven by the car, metalworking and electronic industries while the biggest drop in production was registered in food and woodworking industries. The value of new orders rose by 12.6 percent year-on-year.
The town of Kladno, just outside of Prague, declared a state of calamity on Monday evening after being hit by continued heavy snowfall. Snow removal crews, the police as well as 15 prisoners from a light-security prison worked to clear blocked roads and routes. Kladno’s mayor, Dan Jiránek, explained that the declaration allowed the city to bypass regular protocol, to hire companies normally not used in snow removal to help in difficult conditions. The main priorities, he said, included removing snow from along bus routes, dead-ends in inhabited areas and the city centre. In related news, snowfall on Tuesday morning saw one flight delayed at Prague’s international airport, Ruzyně, while several others were delayed.
The regional court in Zlín on Tuesday sentenced a 40-year-old woman to 13 years in prison for the murder of her 75-year-old husband. The tragedy unravelled in the town of Otrokovice in May. The suspect was under the influence of alcohol when she got into an argument with her husband which she resolved with a kitchen knife. The convicted party could have received a more severe or lesser sentence, from 10 and 18 years in jail.
An exhibition of works of great 20th century painter Amedeo Modigliani, is set to open this week at Prague’s famous Obecní dům (Municpal House), insured for 1.2 billion crowns. The show will last until the end of February and feature more than 60 items, including oil paintings, drawings, sketches, photographs and documentary material. Part of the show will focus on the painter’s relationship with model Jeanne Hebutern.
After four years, film director David Ondříček is readying to shoot a new film tentatively entitled Ve stínu koně (In the Shadow of the Horse). The film is set in the Communist 1950s, shortly before drastic monetary reforms were introduced in Czechoslovakia devaluing the crown currency. The film’s story is said to revolve around action taken by the StB, the notorious secret police, to deflect public attention during that period. David Ondříček is the successful director of films such as Samotáři (Loners) and Grand Hotel and is the son of world-famous D.O.P Miroslav Ondříček, who worked on films such as Valmont or Amadeus. Ve stínu koně is expected to go into production in March, with a budget of 70 million crowns.
The next few days should be overcast with snow and sleet. Temperatures should range between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius.