This week in Business News: The construction sector in the Czech Republic is expected to restart growth in 2014; Škoda Yeti was voted the most popular car by British car owners; ČEZ has asked two remaining contenders in the Temelín expansion deal to submit better offers; Economic confidence is down in April, after two straight months of improvement; The Federation of Food and Drink Industries wants to introduce stricter rules on product labeling; Trade unions and employers reach no agreement on minimum wage increase.
Trade unions and employers on Thursday failed to agree on a planned minimum wage increase in 2014, leaving the decision in the hands of the government. While trade unions demanded a 600 crown raise, employers would not go higher than 400. Social Affairs Minister Ludmilla Mullerová said she would present both options to the cabinet for a final decision. The minimum wage is currently 8,000 crowns before tax and has not been raised since 2007.
President Miloš Zeman on Friday met for the second time at Prague Castle with the head of the trade union’s umbrella organisation ČMKOS, Jaroslav Zavadil. During the meeting, issues discussed included the boosting of the economy, with Mr Zeman outlining he would sit in on a future tripartite session of the government, trade unions and business representatives. As president, Mr Zeman has promised to take a more hands-on approach than his predecessor; the next tripartite meeting is on April 25 and is scheduled to tackle issues of economic growth and the minimum wage; but the president is only expected to make the session after that, held in late June.
Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek has backed Prague’s high attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, in her dispute with the head of the anti-corruption police, Martin Červíček. Ms Bradáčová accused Mr Červíček of fabricating a case against her in relation to her role in prosecuting an overpriced IT contract at the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Minister Blažek told the news agency ČTK on Wednesday that Ms Bradáčová came with an exceptionally serious claim; the minister also described the police practices as similar to those used by the communist police in the 1950s. The head of the anti-corruption police Martin Červíček has denied any wrongdoing.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas released a public statement calling on the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to make public information about all the production and related expenses of the embattled social welfare S-Card. The Premier has distanced himself from the S-Card project in the past week and has asked the Labor Minister Ludmila Müllerová to discontinue the new system. Ms Müllerová and the coalition partner TOP 09 are defending the project.
In the Business News this week: Korean Air completes deal for 44-percent stake in CŠA; jobless rate falls for first time in nine months, but only slightly; labour costs in Czech Republic are below half EU average; car production slows; mobile operators are offering new low monthly prices for unlimited calls; and forest owners want state compensation for recreational use of land.
The Czech government on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on whether the controversial system of welfare payments, known as S-Cards, should continue. The cabinet refused a proposal by the labour and social affairs minister, Ludmila Müllerová of TOP 09, to use the cards as identification for welfare recipients. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said the best solution would be to scrap the system, a move opposed by the coalition TOP 09 group.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic fell from 8.1 percent in February to 8 percent last month, according to figures released on Tuesday. Some 573,875 people were out of work in the country in March. Analysts said the slight improvement was down to seasonal factors and pointed out that the Czech labour market was still beset by negative trends linked to the overall economic development. The jobless rate in Prague last month was 4.6 percent, the same as in February.
The Office for Personal Data Protection has imposed a CZK 100,000 fine on the Prague High State Attorney’s Office for making public the salaries of all its employees, along with their names and positions, the news website lidovky.cz reported. For her part, state attorney Lenka Bradáčová has stood by her decision. She says the information was released in response to a public request and that she acted in accordance with a 2011 court ruling. Her office plans to appeal the decision.
Unemployed people who start businesses that operate for at least two years could receive a handout of up to CZK 80,000 from the state, while firms could get support for employing parents part-time or the under 30s, as part of a wide-ranging government plan to fight unemployment discussed by the government, unions and employers on Tuesday. A commission comprised of representatives of the three groups – known as the tripartite – are to work on developing the plan, which will be discussed again on April 25.
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