Business News

Photo: CTK

In Business News this week: the labour minister unveils plans to make it easier to sack workers; the Czech EU presidency organizes a summit on unemployment in Prague; Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says he will not raise tax on cigarettes and alcohol; supermarket chain Billa starts to sell its customers package holidays, and the country’s oldest tour operator posts its biggest profits ever.

Labour minister plans to make firing workers easier

Petr Nečas and Miroslav Kalousek  (right),  photo: CTK
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas has said that he is working on legislation which would make it easier for employers to hire, and fire, workers. Mr Nečas wants to lessen employees’ severance pay, and lengthen their trial period in a new job, from three months to four or even six. Speaking to newspaper Hospodářské noviny on Friday, Mr Nečas denied claims that he was looking to legalise the so-called ‘Švarc system’, which sees a firm employing its workers on a self-employed basis, so that no social insurance has to be paid on their behalf. The labour minister said that he could not protect the tens of thousands of Czechs who were going to lose their jobs over the next couple of months, but, he said, he could help create new jobs for those who find themselves unemployed. The minister plans to bring his proposals before the Czech parliament in June.

Czech EU presidency arranges unemployment summit

The Czech EU presidency is to organize an extraordinary summit in Prague in May to deal with the effects of the economic crisis on employment. European Commission President Jose Barroso made the announcement on Wednesday after meeting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in Brussels. For his part, Mr Topolánek said that unemployment was one of the two biggest problems faced by Europe in the current financial climate. Unemployment in the EU grew in December by more than 1.6 million. On Wednesday, Mr Topolánek said the other problem the bloc currently faced was the impact of the crisis on big firms. His government has organized another EU summit on protectionism in Brussels to be held in March.

Finance minister will not raise tax on cigarettes and alcohol

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek will not raise the price of cigarettes and alcohol as the Health Ministry had requested, Hospodářské noviny reported as its top story on Friday. Health Minister Daniela Filipiová had suggested that raising duty on wine and beer could help Czech coffers at a time of financial crisis, but this proposal was brushed aside on Friday by Mr Kalousek, who said that the move could lead to a rise in illegal imports. The Health Ministry argued that smokers and drinkers cost the Czech healthcare system more than their clean-living counterparts. The ministry’s calls for a tax-hike, however, proved unpopular throughout the government, with Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas also criticizing the plan.

Supermarket Billa starts selling package holidays…

Photo: CTK
Retailer Billa will become the first supermarket chain in the country to offer package holidays to its shoppers, it was announced this week. Within the next couple of months, customers will be able to buy package deals as well as their fruit and vegetables at Billa stores, through the newly-founded travel agent ITS Billa Travel. Should the retailer sell tours in each of its 173 stores around the country, then, analysts have said, it will become overnight the biggest travel agent in the country. Billa is owned by the German Rewe Group, it is currently the fifth biggest retailer in the Czech Republic.

… while the country’s oldest tour operator posts record profits.

Meanwhile, the country’s oldest tour operator Čedok announced this week that its profits had risen in 2008 by over 50 percent. Čedok, which is one of the Czech Republic’s largest travel agents, said its sales had risen by more than ten percent in 2008 to 3.5 billion crowns (157 million USD). The travel agent opened up a new Turkish venture, Ahoy Turizm, in Istanbul in the second half of last year. Its biggest rival, Exim Tours, it yet to announce its profits for 2008.