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ČSSD: Czech living standard lags behind Western too long

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Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) – It is disappointing that the Czech living standard and wages have been getting closer to the Western levels only very slowly, Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) leader and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said after a meeting that discussed CSSD priorities for the next two years.

He also said the party will keep focusing on guaranteeing security and tackling the migrant crisis.

“We are a country that has been trying to close the big gap between Eastern and Western Europe that developed under the communist regime,” Sobotka said, adding that he had expected that it would have taken less time to bring the Czech Republic close to the West.

“It is a disappointment for me and for the CSSD that 25 years after November 1989 there are still so big differences in life between Germany and Austria on one hand and the Czech Republic on the other hand,” he said.

Sobotka said the Social Democrats want to push through the raising of the monthly minimum wage to at least 11,000 crowns by January 2017.

In January 2016, the monthly minimum wage was raised from 9200 to 9900 crowns.

Czech employers oppose such a radical increase in the minimum wage. They say the issue has become political and is used in the campaign before the 2018 general election. On the contrary, trade unions demand that the minimum wage be at least 11,500 crowns.

Sobotka said the CSSD will try to change the situation where people do not get sickness benefits for the first three days of an illness. He called this “an unjust and ruthless measure.”

The CSSD would like to reintroduce the payments of the sickness benefits for the first three days or introduce sick days, but it has not yet reached agreement on the issue with its coalition partners, the ANO movement and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

Sickness benefits paid only from the fourth day of an illness was one of the austerity measures adopted by a right-wing government in reaction to the global financial crisis.

Sobotka said the CSSD also will focus on a pay rise for people working in the public sector.

Unless the Czech economy and salaries in both the public and private sectors go up, the Czech Republic will never catch up with the West, Sobotka said.

In November 2015, salaries of employees in the public sphere were increased by 3 percent. Teachers received even slightly more and doctors and nurses saw their salaries go up by 5 percent in January. In 2014 when Sobotka’s government started ruling the country the pay was raised as well.

“I consider it important that we keep markedly raising salaries, especially in health care where we face unfair competition from richer countries,” Sobotka said.

Some Czech medical facilities have problems to find new staff because many doctors and nurses go to work abroad to earn considerably higher wages.

The planned pay rise will be first discussed in the government coalition and later with trade unionists.

Sobotka said the Czech Republic was fully in control of the security situation in the past two years.

He said previously it is not enough to identify threats, but that solutions needs to be sought.

Sobotka said he can understand people’s concerns about the migrant influx, yet the CSSD is not going to spread fear refugees.

Sobotka said the CSSD leadership agreed that the party has been successfully meeting its election programme from 2013.

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