The country’s health minister, Leoš Heger, has said he will order state hospitals to raise wages in January by 6.25 percent instead of an earlier promised 10 percent. Speaking to journalists on Friday, he stressed that the remaining 3.75 percent could be added midway through the year, if revenues are collected by the insurance companies allowed. The minister stressed the decision was a compromise in light of gloomy economic predictions for the Czech economy for 2012 - not expected to grow more than – at best - one percent. The unions had been asking for all 10 percent as of January and are expected to respond to the minister’s decision on Monday. Despite the poor economic outlook, the minister has promised that he will do his utmost to make sure patient care remains unaffected; if anything new investment will need to be curbed to meet current financial difficulties.
Unemployment dropped to 6.6 percent year-on-year in the Czech Republic in the 3Q, leaving 346,000 jobless – almost 30,000 people fewer than the same period last year. In the long-term it is the lowest unemployment the country has seen since the second quarter of 2009, the Czech Statistical Office reported. The office measures the unemployment rate based on the methodology of the International Labour Organisation. By contrast, the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs uses a different system and ranks unemployment during the same period at around 8.1 percent.
The lower house passes the draft state budget for 2012 in a first reading; the 2011 Czech state budget deficit falls to 91.5 billion crowns in October; the Czech unemployment rate drops 0.5 percent to 6.6 percent year on year; the lower house approves restrictions of state support to building savings; and Škoda Auto reveals price of its new model.
Analysts predict a rise in unemployment in the coming months both due to the end of seasonal work and the gloomy economic predictions that will inevitably result in more lay-offs. The jobless rate, which has stagnated at around 8 percent for some time is expected to climb by one percentage point, possibly more, in the coming months depending on the economic slowdown in Europe.
The Česká spořitelna bank has won a contract to supply cards to recipients of social welfare, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. The bank won mainly because it had the highest number of ATMs of all the participants in the tender, the daily wrote. However, the winner has yet to be cleared by the Czech anti-monopoly authority. Welfare cards are to be introduced as part of the government’s social and welfare reform; if approved by Parliament, some 86 billion crowns in welfare and other benefits should be paid through these cards. The state should save up to one billion crowns as it will not pay for the service; the bank will charge recipients fees for all but one withdrawal a month.
Czech doctors and nurses’ trade unions on Monday gave the government an ultimatum to deliver on its promise of raising their salaries. If the health minister does not provide guarantees for a 10-percent raise in salaries of health workers in 2012 by November 5, union leaders say they will launch a new round of protests. For his part, Health Minister Leoš Heger said it was not his intention to back down on the pay rise.
A demonstration is being held in Prague on Saturday to protest government reforms. Some three thousand people gathered at Prague’s Náměstí Republiky in the early afternoon, calling for the resignation of the premier and his cabinet. They then began a march across Old Town to Malostránské Náměstí to attend speeches by politicians and activists. The demonstration is organised by the left-wing ProAlt initiative, trade unions and other organisations.
Trade unions in the health sector have given health minister Leoš Heger until November 5th to deliver on his promise to raise doctors and nurses salaries in 2012. The head of the doctors’ trade unions Martin Engel told the CTK news agency that unless the minister made good on his promise there would be a renewal of this year’s protest actions and mass walkouts from hospitals around the country. In a memorandum signed this spring Minister Heger promised to increase doctors and nurses salaries by 10 percent in the coming year, but there in concern that due to across the board budget cuts in the state sector he might not keep his word.
Czech courts do not have the authority to rule on the terms of employment of clerics, the Constitutional Court has found. In an 18-year-long case regarding two pastors’ termination of employment with the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, the court found that the Czech judiciary would be violating the autonomy of the church if it were to rule on such matters. The verdict overrules those of the lower and the Supreme Court and return. The friars claim that their termination was inconsistent with the rules of the church and the Labour Code and are demanding millions of crowns in back-pay.
The prosecution of five Prague City Hall employees, suspected of having
broken the law on public tenders in the Opencard case, will continue after
a complaint by the defence was dismissed as insubstantial by the state
prosecutor. Charges against four of the five have since been broadened.
five suspects were charged by the police in August: they are suspected of
having signed several disadvantageous contracts with providers and of
breaking the law on tenders in the choice of the company Haguess to
the city travel and service cards after the firm failed to meet all
Prague’s Opencard serves as a transit pass and is also used for other services such as the borrowing of library books. Critics charge that the project – which cost more than 800 million crowns – was drastically overpriced.
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