The main Czech trade unions body has threatened to protest against broad changes promised by the new cabinet. At a news conference on Friday, union leader Josef Středula said his organisation aimed to reach agreement with the government. However, if the unions’ arguments are not respected, they will take action, he said. Mr Středula said the first battle could be expected during the drafting of next year’s budget. The coalition government led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas has pledged to balance the country’s budget by 2016, and to reform the pension, health and university systems. Unions boss Jaroslav Zavadil said on Friday that its plans represented the strongest attack on the rights of Czech workers in 20 years.
For his part, Prime Minister Nečas said on Friday that the government would be willing to discuss planned cuts with union representatives. He added, however, that threats and protests would not deter the government from its plans to stabilise the public finances, which unfortunately would not come without extensive savings. Mr Nečas warned the unions not to behave like their counterparts in Greece and Hungary, who he said had contributed to their countries’ economic woes.
Earlier union leaders made specific objections to planned amendments to Czech labour law. The Ministry of Labour wants to introduce a series of changes, including giving employers a five-year period in which they do not have to give workers a long-term contract, compared to two years at present. Labour Minister Jaromír Drábek also says people who voluntarily quit their jobs should not be eligible for unemployment benefit. Mr Zavadil told reporters he had expressed opposition to the proposed changes in talks with the minister on Thursday.
The Chamber of Deputies aims to make savings this year by cutting the number of foreign trips taken by MPs, the chairwoman of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová, said on Friday. She said the number of domestic flights taken by deputies would also be reduced in future. One cost-cutting measure already introduced was reducing the number of lower house deputy chairs from five to three. Next week the Chamber of Deputies budget committee will vote on whether to freeze the institution’s own expenses, along with those of five other bodies, including the Senate and the Constitutional Court.
Plans to close some Czech embassies and consuls would spell the end of the country’s traditional diplomatic network and threaten exports to Africa, Asia and South America, the opposition Social Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman Lubomír Zaorálek said on Friday. He said Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg ought to discuss the planned closures with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Mr Schwarzenberg said this week that around Czech 10 embassies and consuls would be shut down, mainly in South America and Africa, as part of cost-cutting measures.
Thieves made off with a complete ATM machine from a department store in the south Moravian town of Břeclav on Thursday night. The theft occurred while night shift workers were stacking shelves inside the shop at around 3 am. It took the thieves only a matter of minutes to remove the entrance doors and pull the free-standing cash machine away using chains attached to a car.
Over 80 percent of Czechs believe they will find state old age pensions inadequate, suggests a new study by the internet based polling agency SANEP. However, half of the 5000-plus respondents in July’s survey said they could not afford to save for their own retirement. Seventy-two percent said they expected to experience a drastic fall in their living standards once their working lives come to an end.
Three Czech clubs have been eliminated in qualification for the continent’s second tier football competition, the Europa League. Viktoria Plzeň had two men sent off as they went down 3:0 to Besiktas in Istanbul on Thursday, losing that tie 4:1 on aggregate. Baník Ostrava were beaten 2:1 at home by Dnepr Mogilev, giving the Belarusian side an aggregate 3:1 win, while Jablonec also failed to make home advantage pay, losing 3:0 on the night and 4:0 overall to APOEL Nicosia. The only Czech team in European competition this season will be Sparta Prague. The title holders have reached the final qualification round for the Champions League, and are guaranteed a Europa League spot if they don’t get past Slovakia’s Žilina.
Top seed Tomáš Berdych has reached the quarter finals at the Washington Classic. The Czech men’s number one beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-3 5-7 7-5 to set up a clash with Belgium’s Xavier Malisse for a place in the last four. Klára Zakopalová, meanwhile, has reached her first WTA semi-final of the season at the Danish Open in Copenhagen, after overcoming the German player Angelique Kerber 6-1 7-5.
The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that in all likelihood the Czech Republic will have to close down around ten diplomatic missions, above all in South America and Africa, as the result of budget cuts. He made the statement in Budapest on Thursday, adding concrete locations would be discussed by the government at its next meeting. In addition to the closing down of bureaux abroad, the foreign minister also stressed that some 100 employees would be let go by the Foreign Ministry. The planned cuts are directly related to the government’s austerity measures, requiring individual ministries to save ten percent of their annual budgets for next year.