The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament has voted to return maternity benefits to their 2009 levels. The proposal from the Christian Democratic Party was supported by the left, which has opposed the government in seeking to save the system from budget cuts. The bill will now be read in the Senate. Depending on their income level before giving birth, mothers will likely receive up to several thousand crowns per month more at a cost of 1.5 billion to the state. Voting against the proposal were the centre-right Civic Democratic Party and TOP 09, whose vice-chairman, former Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, said the benefits increase would help mothers by taking the money from their children.
The general director of Czech Radio, Richard Medek, has resigned. Citing health reasons, Mr Medek announced his decision to the Council of Czech Radio on Wednesday. Peter Duhan, the current programme director, will be taking over the Radio in the interim from February 28, and has told the Czech Press Agency that he would most likely compete for the position again. Mr Duhan also filled the post of general director during the previous vacancy, until Mr Medek was appointed on the basis of a new organisational plan for the radio. However, that plan was ultimately voted down by the council a fortnight ago. The council will be accepting nominations for the post of general director until the end of April.
A civic association dealing with the restoration of Prague’s Charles Bridge has filed a request with the City Hall to prohibit the company in question from continuing their work. The Association for the Support and Development of Culture Heritage (ASORKD) wants a preliminary measure issued to halt any further restorative work by the company Mott MacDonald until a court process over the matter is complete. The association was formed last year to protest what officials and citizens alike have described as several instances of carelessness on the company’s part. Last year the City of Prague refused to recognise a number of complaints made by the Ministry of Culture showing that the bridge’s restoration was being carried out improperly. Among them, the ministry’s conservationists found that original stone in good condition was being discarded. The association has also pressed charges in the matter and is campaigning for the bridge to be nationalised.
Transport unions in 16 municipalities in the Czech Republic are debating who will strike next week. The Dosia association of transport unions announced on Tuesday they would be striking on Monday morning from 4:00 to 9:00. Several major Czech cities have confirmed they will join the strike, as have six of the 13 union organisations in Prague, including metro workers and bus drivers. The move is in protest at a change to the taxation system that has put transportation workers’ benefits in a higher tax bracket. Union leaders have also threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the matter is not resolved to their liking.
The Supreme Administrative Court will be making a verdict on Thursday in a case that uncovered a serious flaw regarding the social security insurance law. At the centre of the dispute is the 2006 amendment to the law in question, which unintentionally removed a passage defining the basis of assessment for insurance premiums. The amount of insurance premiums was thus unclear for the first half of 2007. In current case, the Czech Social Security Administration is suing a software company that refused to pay their premium for the period. A vast number of other companies did pay their premiums during that time however, and are now demanding settlement. The outcome of the case will thus set a president for hundreds of similar disputes and could involve up to 100 billion crowns.
Also regarding the Social Security Administration, the Czech Press Agency has reported that statistics provided by the administration show a slight decrease in the number of average amount of pension insurance paid out since the criteria for recognising disability pensions were tightened up at the beginning of this year. The stricter criteria are the result of uncompleted reforms undertaken by the previous government, led by the Civic Democratic Party. In December of 2009, the total number of people receiving pension insurance was about 533,000; that number dropped by roughly 58,000 the following month.
Fans of league football will be returning to the stadiums at the weekend, and unruly behaviour could now find them banned from sporting events. The new punishment is the result of the new criminal code, which took effect on January 1. As per the law, judges can now prohibit anyone found guilty of an intentional criminal act from attending sports, cultural or other social events for up to ten years. While the bans are intended primarily to dissuade football hooliganism, they may also be applied to attendees of concerts, community festivals or other events.
A court in Brno has sentenced a man and his stepson to five and a half and six years, respectively, for the long-term sexual abuse of his daughter. The victim, who is now 19, had been sexually abused since the age of six by her stepbrother, who is ten years older. The court heard that molestation by the father, who had been fully aware of the situation, began when his stepson moved away to college, and continued until the girl herself moved out. Neither a gynaecologist nor a councillor to whom the victim turned for help believed her, however, and it was not until a friend intervened that police were contacted. The court gave the two men minimum sentences on the grounds that the abuse did not involve intercourse.
The town hall of Hradec Králové wants to launch its own internet television station as soon as possible. Deputy mayor Martin Soukup told reporters on Wednesday that the aim was to improve the communication with young people and would be organised by a professional company at a cost of 630,000 crowns. The Social Democrats have lashed out at the idea, saying that their rival party, the Civic Democrats, who currently control the municipal government in Hradec Králové, want the channel merely for their own promotion ahead of elections.
The Czech Republic’s ice hockey players have reached the quarter-finals at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver after a 3:2 victory over Latvia. The Czechs scored two goals in the first period, a feat repeated by the Latvians in the third to force overtime. However, David Krejčí eased Czech nerves with a goal in the sixth minute of overtime to book a place in the last eight. Star forward Jaromír Jágr was taken off less than half way through the game after complaining of neck pain, but is expected to play against Finland in the quarter-final tie. Many Czechs fans will be setting their alarm clocks for that match, which begins at 4 am CET on Thursday.