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Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion's new director trying to keep staff on board

12.6.2015 1:05
Radek Jiránek (PHOTO: Czech Interior Ministry)
Radek Jiránek (PHOTO: Czech Interior Ministry)

On 5 June, Radek Jiránek began working as the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. He is taking the Agency over at a time when 24 of its 70 employees have given notice and others are considering leaving as well.  

The Agency has been rattled by a crisis sparked by the dismissal of its previous director in mid-April. All of the employees backed him and some then protested against future possible changes to the Agency by going on strike and ultimately giving notice - all at a time when the drawing of billions of Czech crowns from the EU Structural Funds, in which the Agency is to play a key role, is fast approaching.

Meeting with the Czech PM and the employees

On 4 June, Jiránek and several of the protesting employees met with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka. The Czech News Agency reported that the PM promised the employees that in future the Agency might be awarded the status of a separate section at the Office of the Government.

"I think that is the maximum our counterparts can promise us," Petr Čáp, a protesting employee who attended the meeting, was quoted as saying. Jiránek confirmed that information during an interview on 5 June with Czech Television.    

The new director also repeated that the Agency is not planning any big changes and added that he will do his best to convince the disgruntled employees to stay on board. He was scheduled to meet with them again yesterday.

News server reports that he may be faced with more departures, however. The contracts for many of the Agency's employees end this summer.

An experienced staffer with the Agency told news server  "I am not bothering to give notice. My contract ends in August. A miracle would have to happen for me to want to stay."

A big challenge

Jiránek has previously worked as head of the Crime Prevention Department at the Czech Interior Ministry. He applied for the post of director of the Agency in 2009, when Martin Šimáček won instead.

Speaking at a press conference where Czech Human Rights Minister Dienstbier introduced the new director, he said:  "In my profession I had already made it to an imaginary end or goal when I became involved with increasing security in socially excluded localities. I take this new role as a great challenge, a moment when we will be able to offer not just security in these localities to the socially excluded, but also contribute to their education, employment, and the other services they are not receiving there."  

Some commentators consider Jiránek's longtime engagement in the area of crime prevention to be limiting. "While Šimáček wanted to eliminate the causes of exclusion and was interested in social housing or how to get Romani children out of the 'special schools' and into mainstream ones, Radek Jiránek has been advocating for control and repression. In the archives we have found mention of his having praised politicians in Tanvald for installing more CCTV cameras in town and in the surrounding communities at the start of this year," writes Hana Čápová, a reporter for RESPEKT magazine.      

In other projects or reporting connected with Jiránek it is possible to find that the perspective of crime prevention has logically emphasized protecting public safety through instruments such as CCTV systems, protective grilles, strengthening policing, etc. Minister Dienstbier, however, defends the new director.

"In this country there is no one who would be a top-notch expert in crime prevention and education and indebtedness and social housing - in all the matters connected with the Agency's work," he said at the press conference. "On the contrary, I believe that someone who approaches crime from the perspective of prevention is essentially approaching it from a similar perspective to that which the Agency is supposed to take in approaching the entire range of social inclusion problems." 

mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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