Czech Human Rights Minister speaks of a "cult of personality" around the director he fired
Speaking today on the Prima television station's "Partie" program, Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) has already identified replacements for some of the staffers of the Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion who have given their notice in connection with his dismissal of Martin Šimáček as its head. On Friday, Dienstbier's spokesperson told the Czech News Agency that the minister had not yet begun to look for replacements and would wait until Šimáček's successor is chosen before opening up the positions to applicants.
"We are responding to the notices that have been submitted as they come in and we already have identified possible replacements for some of them, so we will continue to address that," the minister said. A total of 14 staffers from the Agency's top management gave notice last Thursday; the Agency has 70 employees total, and others are reportedly planning to give notice as well.
The Agency is a department of the Office of the Government and is part of Dienstbier's portfolio. The employees disagree with him about the Agency's form and function and are complaining of political pressure.
Some of the staffers announced a strike, which they then suspended pending negotiations with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD). Dienstbier reiterated today that nothing will change about either the form or the function of the Agency before the end of the year.
"The only thing I've intervened in is what was probably a cult of personality around Martin Šimáček," he said. Agency staffer Lucie Macků, however, called the reasons given for Šimáček's dismissal after six years in the post absurd.
"We want to defend the interests of the socially excluded, not the political interests of the minister," she said. Šimáček's successor will be announced next week after the completion of a selection procedure among seven candidates.
Prima has reported that the new director could be Radek Jiránek, who currently runs the Department of Preventive Programs, Volunteer Services and Human Rights. Dienstbier refused to comment.
Jiránek applied for the position of the Agency head back in 2009 but was the second choice after Šimáček, who spent many years working for the People in Need organization. The departing staffers have justified their decision to leave by saying that even five weeks after the director's dismissal there has been no progress made in resolving the current dispute over the form and future function of the Agency.
Dienstbier had originally planned to "systematize" the Agency starting in July, when the new law on civil service will take effect. The Agency was to have been divided into two separate departments, but the staffers objected and no longer want the department to fall within Dienstbier's purview.
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