Press Review

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There is a mixture of different stories and photos featured on the front pages of today's newspapers, ranging from one showing a burning fast train in east Bohemia to another featuring enthusiastic voters of Saddam Hussain during Tuesday's referendum in Iraq. But it's mostly domestic stories that prevail in the Czech press today.

There is a mixture of different stories and photos featured on the front pages of today's newspapers, ranging from one showing a burning fast train in east Bohemia to another featuring enthusiastic voters of Saddam Hussain during Tuesday's referendum in Iraq. But it's mostly domestic stories that prevail in the Czech press today.

"The presidential election will be kicked off on January 15th," - reads a headline in PRAVO. The paper writes that despite all recent debates and disputes over the way in which the new Czech president should be elected, the exact date has been set for the 15th of January next year, when both chambers of the Czech parliament will meet in the Spanish hall at Prague Castle. This was decided surprisingly quickly by the organizational committee of the lower house on Wednesday.

PRAVO notes that the date has been agreed upon by all parliamentary parties, and that it is evident now that the politicians are not taking into consideration the idea of a direct election, as previously proposed. The session at Prague Castle has to decide first whether the vote will be a secret ballot, but it has never before happened that the new president was elected by an open vote.

Many newspapers today talk money - MLADA FRONTA DNES informs its readers that salaries in the Czech Republic have been on the rise, and that the average monthly salary at present is slightly below 16,000 crowns, which is five percent up on last year. But, notes the paper, the pay rises come at the least convenient time.

The Czech economy is currently facing little interest from foreign buyers in Czech goods, and moreover, the Czech crown is stronger than ever before. Economists and the Czech central bank warn that trade unions should slow down their struggle for higher wages for employees. Although the unions intend to achieve a seven percent pay rise next year, economists say this could increase prices and cause problems for producers, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES.

On a similar note, LIDOVE NOVINY says that Czechs currently earn just one fifth of what Germans do. It will take 30 years before Czech people will have salaries equal to those of their colleagues in the European Union. But, after the Czech Republic joins the EU - which is planned for the year 2004 - Czechs can expect their salaries to grow faster than they do now, writes the paper.

And finally, the business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reveals that managers of hospitals and some social institutions are breaking the labour code en masse. That's why the state has started random controls. The problems is that while the managers are showing breaks their employees have during their working time, they, in reality, have none.

One nurse confirmed this fact to the paper, adding that for overtime work, they were not getting extra bonuses, either. The only way out is to amend the labour code, and re-organize work in hospitals, concludes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY.