News Saturday, APRIL 01th, 2000

Steel unions get tough...

Steel unions in northern Moravia have issued a stern warning to the government - either solve our problems or face more protests and more strikes. Union leaders from the big five steel companies in the Ostrava region, all faced with deep financial problems, met to agree on joint measures to increase the pressure on the government. Trade Ministry figures say around 17,000 jobs could be lost over the next few years. Union leaders said that previous moderate protests had gone unheard - and that strike action couldn´t be ruled out to make the government revive the local steel industry.

... and miners begin protest occupation

Meanwhile, union leaders at the Kohinoor coal mine in northern Bohemia have voiced their support for 30 miners who have occupied the pit in protest at plans for its closure. In a statement the union calls for the mine to remain open and for jobs to be preserved.

Grulich goes, but defends his record

The Interior Minister, Vaclav Grulich, has been defending his record at a farewell news conference after announcing his resignation. He said he had submitted a record amount of legislation, much of it bringing Czech law into line with that of the European Union, and had stopped the rise in crime for the first time since 1990. Mr. Grulich said his departure was due to political reasons - a veiled reference to pressure from the main opposition Civic Democratic Party for cabinet changes in return for supporting the budget. President Vaclav Havel has said he understands the political nature of Mr. Grulich´s resignation, but that he will accept it.

Czechs and Poles ponder military joint ventures

A joint Czech-Polish commission is to be set up to look into the possibilities for joint ventures in developing military hardware. The new commission, announced after a meeting of Czech and Polish ministers in Krakow, is to coordinate a joint approach towards modernizing the two countries´ armed forces. Likely projects include bringing ageing Soviet-made T-72 tanks up to scratch and the development of radar systems. Poland and the Czech Republic have been making increased efforts to modernise their military since joining NATO a year ago, along with Hungary. The Czech Defence Minister, Vladimir Vetchy, said they would try to include Hungary in the new commission - because under NATO rules, if three or more countries develope military hardware together they can offer it for sale to other member states.

Wartime slave labour compensation to be tax-free

The Czech Republic looks set to follow the lead of other countries and make compensation paid to wartime slave labourers tax free - and it seems a special law will not need to be approved. A Finance Ministry spokesman told the CTK news agency that existing legislation already made it possible to exclude the payments from taxation. The Czech victims of Nazim should receive 5-15,000 Deutschmarks each.

Floods and snow batter Czech transport

Flooding has closed down the main highway through the northern town of Usti nad Labem for the third time this year, as rain once again poured down on the Czech Republic. Hydrologists expect the river to keep rising over the weekend. Elsewhere, in southern Moravia, water authorities were on the highest level of flood alert as rivers threatened to burst their banks. Meanwhile, in the south west of the country heavy snow caused drivers headaches. Road maintenance teams were mobilised to clear the roads and scatter salt - but motorists were still warned not to drive in the area without snow chains for their wheels.


All of which makes the weekend weather outlook all the more important. The meteorological office says Saturday will see cloudy skies with scaterred showers, and snow in the mountains. Sunday should be drier. At least it won´t be cold though - temperatures will range between eight and thirteen degrees Celsius.