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Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion may see even more quitters

23.5.2015 15:54
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)
Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportuntities and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier (PHOTO: Petr Vilgus, Wikimedia)

Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has not yet begun to look for replacements for the 14 staffers of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion who have given notice because of their disagreements with him. The announcing of those hiring procedures will wait until a new director is found for the Agency.  

Jarmila Balážová, Dienstbier's spokesperson, informed the Czech News Agency of the decision yesterday. The number of those giving notice may not yet be final, according to the wire service.

The Agency is a department of the Office of the Government that falls under Dienstbier's management. Disputes over the form and function of the Agency were sparked five weeks ago by his dismissal of its head, Martin Šimáček.  

The employees then demanded independence from the minister. They went on strike and then suspended the strike.

Negotiations with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) did not calm the situation; another meeting with him is supposed to take place. "Our priority now is to complete the selection process for the new director, who will influence future developments. It is, however, clear that it will be necessary to find replacement staff," Balážová said.

Dienstbier's office will announce the name of the new Agency head on Wednesday. Seven people applied for the post.

According to the minister, nothing will change now with respect to the form or the functioning of the Agency. He repeated more than once that the only change underway is the new boss.

"It is still the case that all of the conditions for the continued functioning of the Agency will remain preserved," Dienstbier said. He claims to see no reason for the staffers to give notice or to protest.  

The Human Rights Minister said he believes that if the dissatisfied staffers at the Agency were genuinely concerned about its work, they would stay and keep going. Previously 24 of the Agency's 70 staffers said they were prepared to give notice should their demands not be met.  

The Czech News Agency reports that the employees have divided into three groups. Only of those groups has given notice.

Those who have quit are now calling themselves the "first wave". They say that the 14 people who are giving notice represent "a combined 50 years of experience at the Agency"; five of those leaving are from the broader leadership.

Without this main management, the Agency's Department of Local Concepts is losing consultants in nine localities. The outgoing staffers have justified their decision by saying that after five weeks there is still no solution to this dispute, as well as that the form and future function of the Agency are only clear until the end of the year.

Dienstbier originally planned to undertake "systematization" at the Agency because of the new law on civil service, which takes effect as of July. The Agency was also supposed to be split into two departments.  

The staffers objected to that idea. There were also disagreements about the use of EU money and how to follow its effectiveness with respect to Romani integration.

The minister has postponed these changes until January 2016 and will continue to negotiate them with the staff. The Agency, according to the Prime Minister, will remain in Dienstbier's portfolio.

Sobotka did meet with representatives of the protesters to discuss whether the Agency should be part of Dienstibier's Human Rights Section or whether it might become a section of its own. That change would mean the institution would no longer have to be supervised by the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs.

"The negotiations did not turn out completely badly. There is a compromise," Petr Čáp, the vice-chair of the employees' union, said after the meeting with the PM. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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