Jakub Mareš is one of the operators of the Hub, Prague’s biggest co-working centre. They are a new kind of shared working environment where people whose main tool is their notebook computer can rent a desk for as many hours a week as they need. Located in a former printing factory in the Smíchov district, the Hub features a large open office space, meeting rooms, a bar and lounge area, and even a summer terrace. When we spoke there recently, I asked Mareš (30) why he and his colleagues had launched the project in Prague, and why now.
A two-hour strike by German train drivers resulted in delays of international trains running though the Czech Republic, a spokesman for Czech Railways said on Tuesday. Express trains bound from Berlin to Budapest, from Hamburg to Villach and from Amsterdam to Prague were reported to be close to two hours late. Knock-on delays were expected throughout most of the day. The strikers are demanding that rail companies accept a nationwide collective labour contract regardless of which rail company they work for. No further protest actions have been planned for the time being.
Around 1,000 union leaders met in Prague on Saturday to weigh up and decide their next steps in reaction to reforms pushed through by the centre-right coalition government. Top of their agenda was the government’s proposal to sweep in a single rate of Value Added Tax at 20 percent to pay for pension reform. Union leaders have already denounced the step saying that it will mean that main burden of paying for the change will fall on the poor. Union leaders also debated a new labour code, health and wider tax reforms. Union leaders were also scheduled to return to the issue of public sector pay cuts which already sparked a one-day strike in December.
The Czech Doctors’ Trade Union has called on members not to withdraw their resignations and show solidarity with union leader Martin Engel. A computerised mail was sent to doctors on Friday night with the request, according to a union member. Prague’s Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital has confirmed that it has refused to take back Mr. Engel on the grounds another person had been given his post. Prague city authorities scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation saying that preparations would have to be made if hospital doctors do not go back to work. The refusal to rehire one of the leaders of the doctors’ protests for better conditions is threatening to scupper a deal under which the government has offered more pay if around a quarter of the country’s hospital doctors withdraw their threat to quit at the start of March. Shadow health minister for the opposition Social Democrats, David Rath, called for the health minister to intervene immediately and branded the hospital’s move as an attempt by the main government part, the Civic Democrats, to torpedo the deal with doctors.
A new poll published by the company Regus suggests that stress from commuting to the workplace negatively affects Czechs’ work performance. Respondents surveyed said that the main agitations in commuting were aggressive and hazardous drivers, the smell of other passengers or their food, and dirty and overheated public transport. According to the poll, 43% of people travel to work by car, 43% by public transport and 14% on foot. The average commute in the Czech Republic was said to be 27 minutes each way, and 45 minutes for 12% of Czechs.
Health Minister Leoš Heger and Czech Doctors´ Union head Martin Engel have signed a joint memorandum to avert a mass walk out of disgruntled hospital doctors. Mr Heger said that the agreement meant a reconciliation in which both sides could say that they made concessions. Mr Engel has called on the 3800 protesting doctors to withdraw their notices of resignation. Depending on their education and expertise, doctors are to receive 5,000 to 8,000 crowns more per month through a change in the base pay. By 2013, their average pay is to be 1.5 to 3 times higher than the average national salary, as they demanded. Roughly two billion crowns intended for salaries are to be transferred to hospitals immediately.
Doctors unions have agreed to a government pay offer putting more money in their pockets immediately and over the following years. The deal has still to be officially backed by the government, but it is seen as being as good as done. Thousands of doctors should in the following days start to withdraw their resignations and the threat of a mass exodus from hospitals appears to have been averted. As the dust on the bitter dispute settles, we asked political analyst Jiří Pehe what he made of the bitter dispute and who he thought had triumphed in the
The government has called for doctors’ unions to call off the threat to
quit en masse from hospitals at the end of the month before it decides
whether to back a proposed pay hike. These conditions were set out in the
cabinet meeting on Wednesday and the deal will be discussed by the
government next week. Ahead of the meeting, members of the senior coalition
party, the Civic Democrats, had accused Health Minister Leoš Heger of
giving too much away. But the minister had been backed by the smallest
government party, Public Affairs, and could have been expected to win
support from his own party, TOP 09.
The government move angered doctors whose unions were due to meet on
Wednesday to give their verdict on the deal. Some have already said the
offer falls short of their expectations. Press reports late on Wednesday
said they had supported the proposed pay rise.
A preliminary deal struck on Monday would give doctors monthly pay rises of 5,000 to 8,000 crowns, ie. a salary hike of 10 and 16 percent. The health minister has also promised that doctor’s salaries would increase by around 10 percent annually until they reach triple the national average. If either side fails to approve the agreement the Czech Republic could face the most serious health crisis in its history, with up to 3,800 physicians walking out at the beginning of March in protest at low pay.
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