Czech trade unions say they will hold rallies in 14 major cities across the country in support of a one-day strike by state employees on December 8. The strike is being held in protest at a 10-percent cut in the money allocated for public sector pay planned for next year. Prime Minister Petr Nečas reiterated on Wednesday that he would not give in to the unions, insisting the cuts must be made as part of a raft of measures aimed at balancing the Czech Republic’s budget by 2016. Police and fire officers, who are barred from striking, will join the rallies, while the unions have threatened more protests in the future.
The winners of elections for one third of the seats in the Czech Senate were sworn in on Wednesday morning in the upper house’s first session in its new formation. Milan Štěch of the Social Democrats, a former trade unions leader, was elected chairman. The biggest Czech opposition party won 12 of the 27 seats being contested last month and now control the 81-member Senate for the first time. This gives the Social Democrats the power to slow but not block legislation put forward by the centre-right governing coalition.
A multi-functional chip card system introduced by Prague City Hall breaches the law on personal data protection, Hospodářské noviny reported. The newspaper said the city’s authorities could face a fine of up to CZK 5 million over the Opencard system, which is used for public transport, libraries and other municipal services. The Office for Personal Data Protection says the authorities did not fully inform the public in advance about the uses information about them would be put to. However, Prague officials deny that the system breaks the law. The Opencard, which was brought in in 2006, was massively overpriced and has been the cause of much controversy.
A Czech-produced anti-cancer drug that some hoped could represent a breakthrough is unsuitable for humans, Hospodářské noviny reported. The treatment – aimed at fighting lymphoma and chronic leukaemia – was developed by the renowned scientist Antonín Holý. It proved extremely effective against cancers in animals during laboratory tests. However, tests on humans have shown that the drug is too toxic to be taken by people, the newspaper said.
An old-aged pensioner has received a 17-year jail term for the brutal murder of a young Vietnamese barwoman. A court in Plzeň heard how the man, who is 63, shot the woman dead at a gaming bar in Františkovy Lázně in March this year when she demanded payment for drinks and then pressed an emergency alarm. Judges described the killing as an execution, and also ordered the perpetrator to undergo treatment for alcoholism.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych has kept alive his hopes of progressing from the group stage at the ATP World Tour Finals in London after beating Andy Roddick 7-5 6-3 on Wednesday. Berdych, who lost his opening match at the O2 Arena to the Serb Novak Djokovic on Monday, saved two set points against Roddick at 4-5 in the first set, which proved to be a pivotal moment. The Wimbledon runner-up will now face the world number one Rafael Nadal of Spain.
This year’s Jindřich Chalupecký Prize for best artist in the Czech Republic under the age of 35 has been won by Vasil Artamonov and Alexej Klyuykov. The award was presented by former Czech president Václav Havel at a ceremony at Prague’s Dox gallery on Tuesday night. The winners were both born in Russia but have been living in the Czech Republic since childhood. An installation of theirs at Dox features objects found at a former industrial site, and the jury praised their “inspired approach to modernism and post-industrial culture”.
A polar bear at a zoo in the Moravian capital Brno has eaten two of her cubs, a spokesperson said. Three years after the successful birth of twins to the bear, she gave birth to a second pair on Sunday night. The zoo’s operators had hoped the new arrivals would prove a big draw for visitors, and said they did not know why the bear had eaten her young.
The first significant snow showers of the winter caused complications on some Czech roads on Wednesday, leading to the deployment of gritting vehicles. In Vysočina some trucks got stuck in the snow, while the Pardubice Region reported a rise in the number of accidents. Forecasters warned of icy patches and mounds of snow forming during the night. The weather has been welcomed by ski slope operators.
President Václav Klaus on Tuesday signed into law three of the four bills that form the backbone of the government’s austerity package for 2011. The laws cover cuts in social spending, tax amendments and reductions in funding for political parties. By signing one of the bills the president approved the taxation of his own salary, and likewise the pension paid to the former president Václav Havel. 2011 will also see the introduction of a so-called flood-tax, money that is to go towards a fund in aid of flood victims.
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