Government officials, trade unions and employers failed to reach a consensus on Thursday on the valorisation of the minimum wage in the coming year. The government proposal envisaged an increase by 600 crowns a month but trade unions considered it inadequate and pushed for an 800 crown increase to seven and a half thousand crowns. Employers want to keep the minimum wage at its present level.
Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill which will substantially increase the salaries of police officers, customs officers and fire fighters. As of January 2005 people in these professions will receive an average 32,000 crowns (around 1,000 euros) per month. The bill was strongly opposed by the Christian Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats who argued that it would raise mandatory expenditures to an unacceptable level. The head of Parliament's budget committee, Miroslav Kalousek, failed in his attempt to get the pay increase postponed by two years.
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The Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced late on Tuesday night that the government had unanimously approved the state budget proposal for 2005, setting the way for it to be put forward to parliament. Although individual ministries had to make some last minute savings, the overall budget proposal still counts on a deficit of some 84 billion crowns (3 billion US dollars).
The government debate over next year's state budget has turned into a battle over wages. The news that police officers can expect a significant pay rise next year has set off an avalanche of protests from teachers, doctors and nurses who are all demanding their share of the pie, reminding the Prime Minister of broken promises.
For many years productivity levels in the Czech Republic lagged behind the country's neighbors to the west. But the latest statistics suggest that Czech workers are now working more efficiently. Productivity levels have reached the average for the world's most industrialized countries. Maida Agovic has been looking more closely at the newly released figures.
Heads of companies whose securities are traded on the Czech capital markets will have to make public their remunerations; MP Lubomir Zaoralek has been given responsibility for drawing up a recommended code of conduct for legislators; SachsenFonds buys four office blocks for EUR 125 million; Employment agencies no longer allowed to contract out students for short-term project-based work.
The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs has reported that the Czech unemployment level in July rose from 9.9 to 10.1 percent, meaning that some 532, 000 people at the end of the month were officially without work. But, say some Czech economists the labour market is slowly but surely improving - as higher unemployment numbers for July were originally expected. Meanwhile, new tabulation methods used by the majority of EU states, now being adopted by the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs, ranks Czech unemployment lower at 9.2 percent.
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