Thursday, April 25, 2019

Paid Sick Leave

In February the government passed Act No. 32/2019 of the Czech Labour Code.  Effective 1 July 2019 employees will be entitled to paid sick leave the first three days that they are ill.

Currently when you're sick, the first three days are unpaid.  After that, employees receive 60% of their salary paid by employers for 14 days.

In the past employees were paid the first three days.  In 2009 the three unpaid days were introduced to cut costs and prevent sickness benefits from being abused.  Since then the rate of employee sickness dropped significantly.

Many people feel that the three unpaid days financially penalises people for being sick.  Let's see what happens to sickness rates come July.

Something that I didn't know was that only 50% of sick pay is given if the reason for being sick is due to a brawl, due to intoxication, ingestion of psychotropic substances, or from committing a criminal offence.  This isn't new.  Just something that I didn't know about.

Update:  In July 2019, the first three days are now paid.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Brunei Darussalam, officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is in Southeast Asia on the northern coast of the island of Borneo.  The country has two territories on the South China Sea and bordered by Malaysia.

Brunei is a small country, a little smaller than Delaware, with just over 442,000 people.  The capital and largest city is Bandar Seri Begawan.

The Bruneian Empire reigned from 1485 - 1528 extending across northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines.  The empire declined during the 19th century and in 1888 Brunei became a British protectorate.  It gained independence from from the UK in 1984.

Brunei is a sultanate, an absolute Islamic monarchy with the same family ruling the country for more than 600 years.  About  of the country are Muslim.

Brunei has extensive petroleum and natural gas fields making it the world's 5th richest country by GDP.  Brunei is a member of ASEAN.  The Brunei dollar is the official currency.

Malay is the official language and both the Latin and Arabic alphabets are used.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been on the throne for 52 years.  In 2013 he announced his intention to impose Sharia law into its penal code with phased implementation.  Those convicted of theft will lose a hand or a foot.  Adulterers are to be stoned to death.

Homosexuality is already illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  Under the new laws those convicted of gay sex will be stoned to death.  Lesbians will receive 40 strokes of the cane and/or up to 10 years in jail.  The law stipulates that to be convicted of gay sex requires that the act be witnessed by four Muslim witnesses.

Many nations and organisations have condemned this and Hollywood celebrities are calling for boycotts of hotels owned by the Sultan.  Here's a BBC video I found out on YouTube about this.

©BBC News

Update:  As of 6 May 2019, the Sultan of Brunei declared that it will not impose Sharia law into the penal code.  

Monday, April 22, 2019

Back in Riga, Latvia

Yeah for Czech public holidays and a four day weekend.  My Baltic Easter trip was a nice getaway.

After my day trips to Šiauliai and the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, and to Tartu in Estonia, yesterday I spent the day walking around Riga.

Not bad for three days and, since I got home Sunday night, I still had today off to relax.

I do enjoy visiting the Baltic countries.  I should try to get there a bit more often.

airBaltic is Latvia's national carrier.  Riga is the hub and they have direct flights from Vienna with connections to Tallinn, Vilnius, and lots of other places.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tartu, Estonia

Tartu is located in the southeast of Estonia on the Emajōgi River.  It is 176 km (109 miles) from Pärnu, 186 km (116 miles) from Tallinn and 245 (152 miles) from Riga.  It dates back to 1030 making ti the oldest city in the Baltics.  Tartu is a university town and with about 94,000 people it is the country's second largest city.

Over the centuries it has been ruled by the Germans, Russians, Poles, Swedes, Soviets, and Nazis.  After the war, while it was part of the Soviet Union, the city was closed to foreigners because just north of the city was one of the biggest air bases in Eastern Europe with aircraft carrying nuclear bombs.  Today the city is about 80% Estonian, 15% Russian, and 5% other.

The Tartu Statue of Liberty was unveiled in 1933 to honour those who died in the War of Independence (1918-1920).  It was destroyed in 1950 by the Soviets but restored and unveiled again in 2003.

The town hall was completed in 1789.

In 1998 the Kissing Students fountain was unveiled in front of the town hall.

The Old Anatomical Theatre was completed in 1805.  It was used as an anatomical theatre until 1999.  It is part of the University of Tartu which is the country's oldest university.  It is ranked amongst the top 400 of the world's most prestigious universities.

The Tähetorn Observatory was completed in 1810.  In 1825 it was rebuilt to hold, what was then, the biggest refractor in the world.
The more modern observatory is across from it at Toome Hill Park.

There was a cathedral built in the 13th century.  It was destroyed during the Livonian War and the ruins are near the university.

St. Peter's Church is a Lutheran church built in the 12th century.

St. John's Church was built in the 12th century.  It began as a Catholic Church but now it is part of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Tartu Toy Museum has over 5000 toys and is the biggest toy museum in the Baltics.  It opened in 1994 and in 2004 it moved to one of the city's oldest wooden buildings, dating back to the 1770s.

The 19th Century Tartu Citizen's Home Museum is located in a wooden house dating back to the 1740s.

The Tartu Art Museum was founded in 1940.

The Song Festival Museum opened in 2007.

The Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum was founded in 1963.  It was renovated in 2001 and it is the Baltic's largest sports museum.

Tartu is a charming little city.  Lots of parks to walk through and more museums than you can fit in a single day.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

Kryžių kalnas, "The Hill of Crosses" is 12 km (7,5 miles) north of Šiauliai and the reason I went there yesterday.  

There are thousands of metal and wooden crosses, and rosaries, here; something like 200,000.

Crosses started being placed here back in 1831.  The crosses were left there to mourn relatives lost in revolts against the Russian Empire.

During Soviet times the communists banned religion and the site was off limits.  But that didn't stop crosses from appearing.  In 1961 the authorities had the entire place bulldozed and burned down.  Yet the crosses kept coming back.
The Soviet authorities destroyed the site at least four more times and people risked KGB patrols to place crosses back on the hill at night.

After Lithuania gained independence it became a symbol of religious freedom and a pilgrimage site.  In 1993, Pope John Paul II delivered mass here. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Šiauliai, Lithuania

Šiauliai is in north of Lithuania about 210 km (130 miles) from the capital city Vilnius.  It's 128 km (80 miles) from Riga, Latvia, so it makes for a good day trip.

Šiauliai was founded in 1236 and gained city rights in 1589.  With over 107,000 inhabitants it is Lithuania's fourth largest city.

About 85% of the city was destroyed during WWI.  The city centre was rebuilt by 1929 and included modern utilities.  In 1939, 20% of the city's population was Jewish.  After WWII, the Jewish population was reduced to only 500 and about 80% of the city was destroyed.  The Soviets then rebuilt the city.

The Fountain Bridges of the Millennium was unveiled in 2008 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the first time the name Lithuania was mentioned.

The Cockerel Love Clock is popular meeting place.

The State Šiauliai Drama Theatre was established in 1931.  It was the country's second professional theatre.

The Šiauliai Art Gallery opened in 1992.

The Bicycle Museum was founded in 1980.

The city's municipal building.

The Photography Museum was established in 1973.

The city has a number of sculptures and parks.

The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral was built from 1617 to 1626.  It was made a Catholic cathedral in 1997.

Outside of the church grounds are graves of Red Army soldiers killed during WWII.

In 1937, the St. Peter and Paul's Orthodox Church was built in an Orthodox Cemetery dating back to 1831.

The Sundial Square by Lake Talkša was built in 1986 to commemorate the city's 750th birthday.

The Iron Fox sculpture by the lake was unveiled in 2009.

Kryžių kalnasry is the Hill of Crosses and it was the whole reason for my visit to Šiauliai.  It is 12 km (7,5 miles) north of the city.  There's some 200,000 crosses.