Minister for human rights, equal rights and legislation Jiří Dienstbier is due in Brussels Monday to try and win European Commission support for Czech proposals on a new civil service law. The Commission has said that billions of crowns in EU funding depends on whether the Czech Republic implements an acceptable framework for an independent and professional civil service. It is the last country in the EU to have put such a framework in place. The government has put its proposal to parliament with most of the provisions set to take effect from 2016. However, the Commission is said to be concerned that some of the measures will not be in force until a year later in 2017. Amongst others, Dienstbier is due to meet Social Affairs Laslo Andor with an overall agreement on how to use social and investment funds up till 2020 one of the issues.
A leading Czech scientist has created uproar with an article in a journal suggesting that pregnant mothers who expected their babies would have severe disabilities should undergo abortions. Miroslav Mitlöhner has in the aftermath of the article resigned as director of a university institution and member of an advisory council at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Mitlöhner in an interview said afterwards that some of the comments attributed to him were quotations from other authors but stood by the overall contents of his article.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has reached agreement with trade unions on maintaining their tax breaks. An income tax bill pushed through by a previous finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, was to have done way with tax exemptions for unions from the start of next year. That provision will now be dropped, the head of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, Josef Středula, said after talks with Mr. Babiš. Benefits such as staff public travel passes and rewards for long-term service in the police or army will also now remain untouched by the changes to income tax legislation.
The country’s health and social care unions are pushing for a pay increase next year of five percent, rejecting the 3.5 percent promised by the government. At a press conference Wednesday, union representatives pointed to the low wages earned by those who care for the elderly or disabled, warning of a worsening of quality. Union leader Dagmar Žitníková charged that long term the situation had only grown worse, saying that jobs in the social services were among the most poorly paid. According to Žitníková, government cuts, higher VAT and the weakening of the Czech crown had all affected the sector negatively.
Unemployment in Prague dipped by a tenth of a percentage point to 5.3 percent in May, according to data released by the Czech Labor Office on Monday. Over 44,000 people in Prague are currently looking for work, aged between 18 and 64 years old. This translates into seven applicants per job. Prague traditionally has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The highest unemployment rate –at 11 percent -is reported in north Bohemia.
The average monthly salary in the Czech Republic grew by 3.3 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, according to official figures released on Thursday. Accounting for inflation, real growth was 3.1 percent. Average monthly pay stood at CZK 24,806 at the end of March. The figure for Prague was just under CZK 33,000.
Wages of state employees including teachers should rise by 3.5 percent next year according to an agreement reached at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. According to a report by the news server iDnes, minister of interior Milan Chovanec said that talks about the level of pay rises for police and firemen will continue with. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš had been looking to keep the wage raise lower. Christian Democrats have already achieved one of their goals on Tuesday with an agreement for more generous tax breaks for families with children.
A Prague court has handed a former deputy minister of labour and social affairs a six-year jail term for attempted blackmail. Vladimír Šiška was found guilty of offering a software company a contract worth at least CZK 100 million if it withdrew a complaint it had lodged at the anti-trust authority against the ministry. Then minister Jaromír Drábek stood down over the matter; he was close to Mr. Šiška and had previously co-owned a company with him. Mr. Šiška’s co-defendant Milan Hojer, who headed the ministry’s IT department, got five years behind bars for his part in the affair.
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