31-10-2001

Most of the major Czech papers this morning carry headlines concerning fears of further terrorist attacks in the United States, which the FBI says may take place this week. Prazske Slovo, the Prague daily, is one of the few that breaks ranks, with its lead story claiming that Czechs are tired, and are lessening the tempo in the workplace.

Otherwise, papers such as Mlada fronta Dnes, Lidove noviny and Pravo are focusing on more common stories, such as the planned departure of retired U.S. astronaut of Czech origin Eugen Cernan, whose stay in the Czech Republic was prolonged after the Czech army helicopter he and eleven others were travelling in crashed near the south Bohemian town of Milevsko last Sunday. All three papers carry cover photographs of the astronaut, who was not injured in the crash, after his release from hospital observation. Afterwards Cernan met with Czech president Vaclav Havel, who received a copy of the watch the astronaut wore on the moon.

Moving on to a major story covered by today's Lidove noviny, the news of the Czech trade unions' disillusionment over the government's decision to postpone a planned 7 percent tariff wage increase for the public sector, a move which will affect civil servants in government, health, and education.

The postponement of the increase is the direct result of changes in the proposed state budget for 2002, after the first version of the budget was rejected by the lower house of parliament two weeks ago: the original proposal allocated 7.2 billion Czech crowns, while the current budget proposal offers just over a billion less. Lidove noviny quotes health and social services union deputy leader Jana Dvorakova as saying the cabinet's decision is a broken promise; apparently union leaders were most upset by the fact that none of them were forewarned of the cabinet's decision. They plan to send a protest letter to Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, and are now calling for immediate talks.

The public sector wage increase was originally supposed to take effect in January 2002, including reforms that were to have broadened the structure of wage brackets. For the meantime the changes have been postponed till April 2002.

And it seems of late that the Czech public has been getting something of a rotten deal: today's Mlada fronta Dnes writes that inspectors of the Czech Agriculture and Food Authority have uncovered that 14 percent of fruit samples inspected in supermarkets throughout the country in August, were either rotten or covered in mould. The percentage at smaller groceries was somewhat less, with numbers of 11 percent.

According to inspectors, the Carrefour supermarket chain fared the worst, with a quarter produce samples inspected there found to be of unacceptable quality. The worst situation was discovered in an Ahold supermarket in the city of Brno, with 80 percent of fruit and vegetables found not suitable for consumption. Agriculture and Food inspectors ordered 64 tons of rotten fruit and vegetables to be destroyed.

And are Czechs growing tired and losing elan in the business sector? According to Prague daily Prazske Slovo, the number of entrepreneur businesses in the Czech Republic has decreased of late, in contrast to the 1990s.

The paper writes that more and more entrepreneurs are giving up on the idea of their own businesses and looking for employment in larger firms. Prazske Slovo cites the rise of 13 000 new employees within the business sector as an indication that the days when independent businessmen worked twelve hour days, seven days a week, without holiday, are on the wane.

31-10-2001