News Thursday, FEBRUARY 11th, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

Czechs to get more sick pay

The Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday finally approved higher health insurance sick pay which will go into effect as of October 1st of this year. On the grounds of the amendment the financial compensation per one day of sick leave will be increased from the present 186 crown maximum to 468 crowns. The sick pay rates were last valorized back in 1994 and had long proved totally insufficient. This was especially obvious during the recent flue epidemic which hit the country when the vast majority of Czechs refused to go on sick leave, either taking regular leave or working through their illness.

Parliament approves freedom of information act

The Lower House has likewise approved a freedom of information act, which will give citizens the right to access information which state and local institutions have at their disposal, with the exception of those that have been classified secret. According to the law the requested information should be made available within 15 days and the respective institutions may request a small fee to cover the expense of materials used.

TUs criticize government

The leader of the Czech Trade Unions Richard Falbr has warned that the upcoming trade union congress would not spare the Social Democrat government and demand the resignation of incompetent ministers. In doing so I believe we will be helping rather than hindering the present leadership, Falbr noted. He refused to say which ministers he had mind. He further criticized the Cabinet for not having finalized its report on the state of the economy and said that unless the draft which the trade union leadership had received was improved upon trade unions would refuse to sit down to the negotiating table to discuss the general agreement on keeping the social peace. Falbr added that the trade Union leadership was not planning any kind of strike action but he pointed out that with growing unemployment the situation could easily break out of their control.

Bank prepares to abolish Czech crown

The new board of the Czech National Bank is to begin work on a strategy for the gradual integration of the country's monetary policy into European structures. Pavel Kysilka, one of the bank's outgoing vice-governors, told the ctk the board would in effect prepare the ground for the abolition of Czech monetary policy, the Czech crown and the Czech National Bank as a clearing centre. He pointed out that there was no point in waiting until the country had acquired EU membership . Monetary autonomy is really a luxury for a country of our size, Kysilka noted. Having said that, he added that he regarded the European monetary union with a critical eye and said that many changes would have to be made for the system to be properly viable.

Call for police president's resignation

Human rights activist Karel Masita has called for the resignation of the police president in connection with the recent beating up and detention of a Czech citizen by police. Stanislav Penc, who happens to be a member of the Council for Human Rights, is said to have been beaten up and detained for close to two hours after demanding that police tell him why they wanted to see his ID. Penc, who was sitting in a pub when the incident took place, said a squad of 15 uniformed policemen entered the place and manhandled him after he asked for an explanation as to why he should present his ID. Under Czech law a citizen has the right to such an explanation. A police spokeswoman claims Penc was arrogant, drunk and uncooperative during a raid by criminal police. An investigation is currently taking place.

Pork row resumes

Czech farmers have expressed their dissatisfaction with continuing imports of subsidized pork from the EU and warned that if the government fails to adopt protective measures, they would organize protest actions. Due to the subsidized imports, the price of pork has dropped to around 25 crowns per kilogramme, which is about ten crowns below farmers' production costs. Unlike other central European states, the Czech Republic retains a preferential tariff on imports of pork from EU member states. Under pressure from local farmers, the Czech government cancelled the preferential import tariff, but the move was strongly opposed by the EU. Following lengthy negotiations, the Czech Republic is now allowed to impose trade barriers if subsidized pork imports continue to negatively affect Czech farmers.

And finally a quick look at the weather:

Thursday should be another very cold day with scattered snowshowers and day temps from minus 7 to minus 3 degs C. Nighttime lows have been forecast at between 8 and 12 degs below zero. The thing to do -if you can spare the time - is to spend a few days at a mountain resort. They all report excellent conditions for skiing. And just a reminder that traffic police are issuing repeated warnings to drivers - so if you are driving anywhere please be extra cautious.