The government may delay its plan to change the salary scales according to which employees in the public sphere are paid, Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek said on Wednesday following talks with trade union leaders. The government’s concession comes in the wake of a massive anti-government demonstration on Tuesday when 40,000 people took to the streets to protest against 10 percent salary cuts for public sector employees in 2011 and an overhaul of the payment system which would have reduced fixed salaries and increased bonuses for performance. Trade union organizations will meet later today to decide whether the concession is enough to stop further anti-government protests.
The Czech government is to meet later today to approve the budget for 2011 which includes a series of cost saving measures. The controversial measures include saving on sickness, maternity and family benefits and abolition of state incentives for building savings accounts. The proposed budget for 2011 counts on a budget deficit of 135 billion crowns. Time is running out for the government to approve the amendments since the budget should proceed through the lower house of parliament by the end of this month.
The Czech data protection authority said on Wednesday it had banned internet giant Google from collecting data for its Street View service in September because its cameras were set too high and interfere with people's privacy, taking pictures beyond a common street view. The Office for Protection of Personal Data said it had received dozens of complaints from citizens. It also urged Google to make a distinction between cities and villages, in which it does not make sense to collect detailed information for tourists. Meanwhile Google has appealed the ban and talks on the issue are expected to continue.
Deputies of the centre-right governing coalition on Wednesday joined forces to reject the proposed abolition of health care fees in the lower house. The proposal was tabled by the opposition Social Democrats on the argument that the fees are unconstitutional and worsen access to health care for poorer groups of the population. Coalition deputies countered that the fees were a symbolic payment which helped improve the quality of health care for all.
The ministers of interior and defense are putting forward an amendment to the law which would allow the military police to wiretap suspect persons. At present only civilian police investigators have that right and the military police must request their cooperation in cases where wiretapping is considered essential. Interior Minister Radek John says increasing the powers of the military police will help improve their performance. The opposition has criticized the proposal, but will most likely not have the power to block it.
A two-day training exercise of integrated rescue forces is taking place at the Temelin nuclear power plant is south Bohemia. The exercise is to ascertain the action capability and degree of coordination of rescue operations following a simulated nuclear leak. The action will involve close to a 1,000 people operating within a twenty-kilometre radius of the power plant. It is the biggest training exercise of its kind even undertaking in the Czech Republic.
Prague City Hall has unexpectedly expressed interest in renewing talks on a new National Library building according to a controversial design by the late Czech-born, London-based architect Jan Kaplický. Mr Kaplický's avant-garde design, nicknamed the Blob, divided public opinion and plans to build it on Letná Plain were scuppered by city councillors last year. According to the daily Mladá fronta Dnes, city hall officials have now approached Kaplický’s widow with a new proposal, suggesting the Blob could be built on Letná at the site of a former giant statue of Stalin, which was pulled down in the early 1960s. Mrs. Kaplický is reportedly willing to cooperate. The paper attributes Prague City Halls’ u-turn in the matter to the upcoming local elections.
The Czech National Bank expects Czech gross domestic product to grow by 1 to 2 percent this year, the bank’s governor Miroslav Singer said in a report to the Senate on Wednesday. Next year, GDP growth should accelerate further. Mr. Singer said the bank did not expect any significant inflationary pressures and if any do appear, he said they were more likely to be caused by tax adjustments than real price growth. The central bank revised its estimate of this year's economic growth up to 1.6 percent in its latest forecast in early August from the previous 1.4 percent. For next year, the central bank left its estimate of GDP growth unchanged at 1.8 percent. In 2012 the economy should expand by 2.9 percent.
An officer of the foreigners’ police and ten Ukrainian nationals have been charged with corruption after it emerged that they were involved in a scheme of visas-for-bribes. The police had been gathering evidence against the officer since the spring during which time they documented dozens of cases in which the officer in question accepted money, gifts and alcohol in return for visas.
The Czech Statistical Office has said it plans to include homeless people in its next census. The head of the office Stanislav Drapal said there had never been any previous attempt to collect information about the country’s homeless people mainly due to the difficulties it would involve. He said the census of homeless people would be undertaken with the help of street workers and charities who had agreed to cooperate. The next census is due in March of 2011.
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