Former prime minister and European labour commissioner Vladimír Špidla is to become chief advisor to the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Spidla, who was considered to be a hot candidate for the post of labour minister in the emerging government, confirmed having accepted the offer on Friday. The post of labour minister in the new government will thus most likely go to Social Democrat Petr Krčál, a councilor in the Vysočina region. The list of ministerial nominees, which Bohuslav Sobotka submitted to the president on Friday evening, is to be made public on Monday after the three parties of the emerging centre-right coalition – the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats - sign a coalition agreement.
Labour offices are struggling to deliver welfare payments to people after the system which had been in operation since 2012 was unexpectedly shut down late last month. The software provider, the firm Fujistsu Technology Solutions, won a contract on running the system two years ago but the Czech anti-monopoly regulator last year cancelled the tender over breach of rules. Labour offices have now returned to a payment system used previously, but they are having to fill in a vast amount of missing data and many employees have not been schooled in how to use it. The Labour Ministry has warned that thousands of people could get their welfare contributions late.
An increasing number of Czechs say they have trouble meeting their basic needs on their monthly salary, the internet news site novinky.cz reports. Over 100,000 people admit to moonlighting but according to unofficial estimates the number of people making extra money on the side is well over one million. This is often undeclared income from helping out with various jobs in people’s homes or assisting with building work at private homes and cottages. One hundred and fifty thousand pensioners have retained their jobs even after reaching retirement age.
Speculation that President Miloš Zeman may reject some of the proposed ministers in the new cabinet has been fuelled by a report that the President’s Office asked the Czech Academy of Sciences to produce a legal study regarding his rights within the boundaries set by the Constitution. According to the internet news site lidovky.cz the study produced by the Academy’s Institute for State and Law claims that the president is not a passive player in the process of establishing a new government and would be acting within his rights were he to reject any of the PMs nominees for ministerial posts. President Zeman has already made it clear that he would not accept Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek as foreign minister or Martin Stropnický of ANO as defence minister. Some political analysts suggest that Mr. Zeman is not only breaking with tradition but overstepping his powers by meddling in the line-up of the next cabinet.
Pavel Varvařovský has resigned as Ombudsman. The office will temporarily be headed by his deputy Stanislav Kreček until a new Ombudsman has been elected to office. Mr. Varvařovský announced his decision earlier this month without stating any reasons for his departure. He had in the past criticized lawmakers for what he called disrespect for his recommendations. Pavel Varvařovský, a former Constitutional Court judge, was the second Czech ombudsman, after the late Otakar Motejl. He has held the post since September, 2010.
The High State Attorney in Prague has charged 12 people over contracts awarded by the Czech government during the country’s EU presidency in 2009, state attorney Tomáš Černý said. The prosecutors say that contracts for audiovisual services, awarded to the firm Promopro during the six-month period, were overpriced by 338 million crowns. Among those charged with manipulating public tenders and abuse of office are three former close associates of Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. Mr. Vondra himself has not been charged.
The Czech anti-monopoly authority has prohibited labour offices from using their IT system for welfare payments, a spokesman for the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry said. The ban came into effect on Wednesday. The anti-monopoly authority imposed the ban due to the fact the system, which was introduced last January, was chosen without an open tender. The ban will not affect welfare payments for December which have already been sent, a spokeswoman for the labour office said. Former labour and social affairs deputy minister, Vladimír Šiška, is being prosecuted on corruption charges in the case.
Czech unions have expressed support for a coalition agreement covering
of the nascent centre-left government. Václav Picl, the deputy chairman
the union umbrella organisation ČMKOS, told journalists on Monday policy
priorities generally corresponded with that of the unions. Josef
the head of the strongest trade union KOVO, meanwhile, went further,
the coalition agreement was the best the country had seen in the
In particular, union leaders welcomed the planned increase in the minimum wage, the abolition of private pension schemes (the so-called second pillar of pension system created by the previous centre-right government) and more support for families with children. Critics have charged that the emerging coalition, however, has not outlined how many planned changes will be paid for. On Monday, representatives of the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats are meeting to discuss ministerial posts in the emerging government.
In this week’s business news: Industrial output has grown for the fourth consecutive month; The prime minister has announced that the interim government will not decide on coal mining limits; Tow more people have been charged in connection to the privatization of mining company OKD; Unemployment figures increased slightly in November; The Czech state debt has decreased in the past nine months.
A battle over opening hours at Czech stores during the holidays has continued for several years and once again the question of whether stores should close or remain open at Yuletide is being hotly debated. Some Czech union representatives want to see hours curbed so that cashiers or shop assistants can spend more time with their loved ones; critics say the matter should be left up to employers.
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