Germany’s Federal Statistical Office recently released an analysis which says that the Czech population is the least threatened by poverty of all the EU member states. According to data from 2008, some 8.6 percent of Czechs, or over 900,000 people, face poverty risk. But critics say these numbers have little relevance, and poverty is looming over many more Czechs. Jan Richter has the details.
The Czech Postal Service is preparing to lay off up to 2 000 employees in the course of this year, in an effort to sustain a sliding profit margin, the daily Hospodarske noviny reported on Tuesday. The state-owned company is also planning to close down close to 1500 local branches which are unprofitable to maintain. A company spokesman said on Monday that in 2010 the Czech Postal Service generated a profit of 280 million pre-tax, down from a 661 million crown profit in 2009.
The commercial TV station Z1 is being closed down due to financial problems, the ctk news agency reported on Monday. Z1 is to go off the air as of midnight tonight. The station which launched its digital broadcasts in 2008 has focused largely on news, business reports and short documentaries. It has been dogged by financial problems. Its management laid off two-thirds of employees in the autumn of 2009 but despite this and other streamlining measures the station has been unable to build up an audience and generate profit.
Tripartite talks between the government, the unions and employers on Thursday failed to produce a consensus on planned changes in health care, namely a closer definition of standard patient care – as covered by insurance companies – and higher quality service for those willing to pay extra, whether for brand-name medicines, materials or other services. The division between standard and extra care is a key component in the government’s planned reforms. But those have so far been rejected by the unions; on Thursday the chairman of the ČMKOS union, Jaroslav Zavadil, said that additional funds for the sector needed to be found and should be a priority but he charged the government’s cost-cutting measures came at the expense of patients.
The Czech minister of culture, Jiří Besser and representatives of the country’s churches and religious groups on Wednesday agreed on a salary freeze for the clergy until 2014. Mr Besser said the agreement was a necessary prerequisite for a broader deal on the restitution of church property. Wednesday’s agreement will mean that churches and other religious groups will get the same amount of money from the state disregarding the number of people they employ. The Czech Republic has not yet adopted the concept of separation of church and state; the lower house of Parliament rejected in 2008 a bill introducing the separation.
The number of jobless Czechs seeking work climbed by 1.0 percent point in December to reach at 9.6 percent. December’s total rose by almost 55,000 to stand at almost 562,000. The number of vacancies fell by 4.7 percent compared with November to total just under 31,000. That means there are on average 18 jobless people for every vacancy. Analysts said many unemployment claims were submitted in a rush during December to avoid tougher conditions for claims at the beginning of the new year. At the start of January 2009, the Czech unemployment rate was 9.2 percent.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Friday slammed doctors who are leaving state hospitals over low pay as utterly irresponsible. Speaking after a meeting with Health Minister Leoš Heger the president expressed full support for his efforts to reform the health sector, saying that the present crisis might actually facilitate the much-needed overhaul of the network of health care providers. Meanwhile, doctors’ trade unions announced at a press conference on Friday that they were launching a second wave of the campaign “Thank You, We Are Leaving” in which he expected several hundred more physicians to hand in their notice. Up till now 3,800 of an overall 16,000 doctors working in state hospitals have resigned. The mass exodus is expected to hit hospitals at the start of March. The health minister has asked GPs and specialists in outpatient surgeries to take on extra patients if need be until the situation has been resolved.
Czechs who have recently lost their jobs are scrambling to register with labour offices before the end of the year in order to avoid the tougher conditions relating to unemployment benefits which are due to take effect as of January 1st. An amendment to the labour code pushed through within the government’s austerity measures for 2010 will mean less money for those who left their job of their own accord and will no longer make it possible for people to make some extra money on the side. People who have been given severance will also not be eligible for benefits over a given period of time. Those who register before the end of the year will benefit from the present labour code.
Disgruntled Czech hospital doctors on Monday began handing in their resignations in an attempt to force the government to increase their salaries. Some 3,800 of the country’s 16,000 physicians are expected to hand in notices by the end of the week, which is when the hospitals will get a clearer picture of what will happen in March, when the resignations take effect. But Heath Minister Leoš Heger has come up with one idea for the hospitals that might face crisis due to understaffing.
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