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Právo: Lower benefits may shock unemployed Czechs in summer

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Prague, May 17 (CTK) – Tens of thousands of long-term unemployed Czechs are likely to be shocked this summer when their welfare benefits will be markedly decreased and they may not be able to compensate the financial loss by participating in community service, daily Pravo wrote on Wednesday.

The new law on community service will lower the monthly subsistence allowance from 3,410 to 2,200 crowns. The law took effect in February and those in need may have their allowances decreased after six months, which means as of August. The employment offices expect the measure to affect up to 100,000 people in need.

If these people participate in community service, they may earn some extra money: those who worked at least 20 hours a month would get 484 crowns more. If they worked 30 hours the previous month, they would receive 605 crowns more, or 2,805 crowns in total, the paper writes.

But if somebody performs only 19 hours, they will get no additional finances. Moreover, the municipal authority is not obliged to offer jobs to the unemployed, Pravo writes.

Due to this, the new law may be challenged at the Constitutional Court. This occurred already once before: in 2012, the Constitutional Court cancelled the community service law prepared by labour minister Jaromir Drabek (TOP 09).

However, the Czech lawmakers are not planning to file a constitutional complaint against the law, the paper writes.

Senator Eliska Wagnerova considers the law bad, but she did not find enough support among her colleagues. At least 17 senators are needed to file a constitutional complaint.

“If poor people do not start taking part in community service by a given date, their welfare will be cut. Nobody will ask if they could work or could not. This is automatic, which is outrageous. If the state demands something from the people, it should at least offer it to them,” Wagnerova told the paper.

She also criticised the stance of the municipal authorities that wanted the community service to be reintroduced.

Wagnerova strongly rejected the argument used by the promoters of community service that municipalities need somebody to do jobs such as cleaning the streets but do not have enough funds to pay for them.

“The benefit of the municipality cannot depend on abusing somebody. These jobs are done for a lower reward than the minimum wage. This is forced labour,” Wagnerova said.

She said the only chance is that after the first people are affected by the law, human rights advocates would push their cases to the Constitutional Court.

It is up to the municipality whether it offers community service to the long-term unemployed.

Dan Jiranek, executive head of the Czech association of municipalities, said towns will be interested in the community service, but he admitted that jobs may not be available everywhere.

Jiranek said municipalities may not want to employ somebody who had not worked well in the past.

He rejected the opinion that people in their late 50s and older would be rejected because the municipal authorities need healthy and efficient workers. Jiranek said he believed that such people would have the necessary good working habits and municipalities would have high interest in their work.

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