The person most likely to become the Czech Republic’s next finance minister has set off a debate about the country’s foreign policy priorities. Speaking at an economic forum, Jan Mládek of the Social Democrats said criticism of Russia and China could cost thousands of Czech jobs. Critics say human rights have to come before exports.
The head of the government’s human rights department Monika Šimůnková has been dismissed from office for allegedly violating internal regulations. She is to be replaced by the current head of the government’s agency for social integration Martin Šimáček. Ms. Šimůnková, who was dismissed by the head of the government’s office, has denied any wrongdoing and told reporters she would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok on Wednesday. She retains the post of the government’s human rights commissioner for which she is directly answerable to the prime minister. The internet news site which broke the story aktualne.cz has suggested her dismissal might be linked to reports that she resisted efforts to radically reduce the government’s human rights section which currently employs about 50 people.
Four Skoda Auto managers have reportedly been dismissed without warning, according to the internet news site idnes. According to the news source they include the head of sales in the Czech Republic and the head of customer services. A Skoda spokesman confirmed the report, saying all four had been denied entry to the company headquarters and were officially “on leave”. Neither the company nor the four managers have commented on the development.
Trade unions in the country’s largest coal mining company OKD have gone on strike alert in protest against the conditions of a proposed collective agreement for 2014-2018. The proposed agreement was put forward by a government mediator after year-long negotiations between trade unions and employers failed to produce results. The head of trade unions at the Paskov mine, which is slated for closure next year, said the strike alert would remain in place until an agreement is reached.
Czech nurses have warned of staff shortages that might affect the quality of health care. According to a poll released by the Czech Association of Nurses on Monday, some 81 percent of nurses said that due to overwork, they could not provide adequate care to their patients. Around 55 percent of the nurses polled also complained about a lack of medical material which is acquired on the basis of price rather than quality. Some 80 percent of nurses also said they felt they were not rewarded adequately for their work.
In this week's Business News: the Czech national debt is down for first time since the 1990s; inflation levels continue a downward trend; the new Prague metro "D" line is approved; unemployment levels are up in September; Budvar declares victory over rival in Italy and former PM Vladimír Špidla says rosy Czech poverty data is misleading.
The number of working pensioners in the Czech Republic is on the rise despite an increase in the retirement age, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Wednesday. While in 2010 the number of employed pensioners between 65 and 70 years of age was 129 thousand in the first half of this year it had increased to 145 thousand. The number of pensioners who continue to work past their retirement age has now reached over 11 percent.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer has accused his predecessor Miroslav Kalousek of tolerating violations of the labour code at the ministry while in office. Minister Fischer said that an internal investigation had revealed serious malpractices in the past including violations in work ethics and attendance where favoured employees had had month-long work absences covered by non-existent business trips. Others had been subjected to mobbing at the workplace which their superiors turned a blind eye on. Mr. Fisher said he believed his predecessor could not have been unaware of what was going on.
Trade unions in the health sector have gone on strike alert to draw attention to what they describe as a looming crisis in the health sector and social services. The head of the umbrella organization of health and social services employees Dagmar Zitnikova said many hospitals and spa facilities were now on the brink of bankruptcy and these issues needed to be addressed urgently. She called on parties running in October’s general elections to make public their stand on the matter.
Over a million people in the Czech Republic are in some way disabled. In addition to the health problems this entails and the social stigma associated with physical and mental disabilities, their chances of finding work are slim. A foundation that helps people with disabilities find jobs has launched a unique project aimed at breaking down existing prejudices and giving more people with disabilities a chance on the labour market. Filip Zoubek, who is project manager, explains that the Heartwrenchers campaign is based on give-and-take.
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