The police trade unions are preparing to send a petition to police officers calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Monday, saying the petition would be sent out when austerity measures slashing police salaries by 10 percent came into effect. Milan Štepánek, the head of the Czech Republic’s Independent Police Trade Union, said the interior minister had not secured enough funds for salaries or operational costs. Due to the cuts, the police will - on average – make 3,000 crowns less per month. Their income was also lowered last year, when some regional police headquarters stopped paying extra for overtime as well as risk bonuses. Mr John has countered his critics by saying that he is the first minister to suffer such a reduced budget: this year, the Interior Ministry received 52.9 billion crowns, almost seven billion crowns less than a year ago.
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is to set up a special commission to investigate the case of an eight-year-old who suffered years of physical and psychological abuse despite the fact that neighbours repeatedly alerted social workers to the problem. The child was severely undernourished with signs of physical abuse all over his body. His parents had reportedly put thumbtacks in his shoes and made him run around the room for hours whimpering in pain. At least one neighbour came forward to say she had heard wailing and screaming from the flat and repeatedly called social workers to check up on the family. The child’s class teacher also said she had rung the authorities to report the problem. The police is investigating why no action was taken.
Hopes of a compromise solution to the looming crisis in the Czech health sector dimmed on Monday when a meeting between the health minister and trade union leaders ended in deadlock. The health minister accused doctors of paving the road to hell in defense of their narrow, selfish interests, while doctors countered that the ministry was not playing above board.
Doctors trade unions are to meet on Tuesday to make a final decision regarding Health Minister Leos Heger’s offer of an additional two billion crowns for salary hikes if doctors withdraw their resignations and desist from further destabilizing protests. The government and trade union leaders are still at loggerheads over some of the conditions of such a deal. Trade unions have demanded guarantees that all doctors who resigned in support of the protest against low wages should be allowed to return, but hospital directors have said they intend to make their own decisions. The prime minister has also expressed the view the money, which is to be acquired by scrapping 10,000 non-essential hospital beds, should not be used only for salary hikes.
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.
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