Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Zeman, Babiš call unions' pay rise proposal inappropriate

ČTK |
23 July 2018

Lany, Central Bohemia/Prague, July 21 (CTK) - Czech President Milos Zeman, PM Andrej Babis and Finance Minister Alena Schillerova agreed on Saturday that trade unions' proposal for a 10-percent increase in civil servants' wages is inappropriate, Schillerova said after meeting Zeman and his team of experts.

In its draft budget for 2019, the cabinet plans a 15-percent pay rise for teachers and a 6-percent pay rise for other civil servants such as the police, firefighters and state administration clerks.

"The trade unions have proposed a 10-percent increase, which would raise the costs by further five billion crowns. We have agreed that a debate is necessary, but that such a pay increase is inappropriate," Schillerova, a minister for Babis's ANO movement, said.

In early July, the cabinet and the unions failed to agree on the rise in wages in civil service. They decided to negotiate about several variants of the increase and tasked the Labour Ministry to calculate their respective costs and effects.

A definitive agreement between the government, unions and employers is expected by mid-August.

"We want to raise the wages mainly for those who earn the least of all, in the culture sector, for example. We do not want an across-the-board increase," Babis repeated on Saturday.

He and Schillerova said the budget bill puts an emphasis on the school system, pensions, investments and transport infrastructure.

Schillerova said her ministry will launch separate discussions about the budget and its chapters with individual ministers.

Babis said the talks will continue after a government recess.

"We will definitely start a debate with our colleagues [ministers for the junior government Social Democrats, CSSD] and urge them also to seek to save money in their respective sectors," Babis said.

The CSSD has five seats in Babis's two-party 15-seat cabinet.

Schillerova said Zeman showed interest in what served the Finance Ministry as a basis to build the draft budget on.

"We agreed that the situation in public finances and the economic figures are very good," Schillerova said.

She said the debate with Zeman did not touch upon the draft budget's gap of 50 billion crowns, against which Zeman previously voiced reservations.

Zeman said in parliament earlier this month that he is for a budget deficit in periods of crisis, not in the current period of economic growth.

"I think the budget must mainly be assessed according to its final outcome. The fact that we have project a deficit does not mean that the budget will end with a deficit," said Babis, giving some examples of state budgets that ended more favourably than originally projected.

The draft budget gap for 2019 was also Saturday criticised by the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), whose economic expert Jan Skopecek suggested that Zeman should clearly say he would not sign the budget bill with a 50-billion deficit.

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