Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

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CSA strike: dozens stranded and flights cancelled

In Economy,Travel on December 2, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , ,

(c) Petr Bokuvka

Many Czech Airlines pilots have been on strike for two days now. They protest against the company management’s restructuring plans, which include, among other things, the transfer of a part of the CSA fleet to Holidays Czech Airlines, which is a charter airline which was established as a sister company.

Czech Airlines announced on its website that the protest is illegal even though only a court can declare with maximum certainty that a protest is illegal. The announcement says that due to the illegal pressure tactics the airline is unable to operate some of its flight. Earlier on Friday the management found a Bulgarian airline which has offered four aircraft and crew, the Planes.cz server wrote. Some of these aircraft brought home dozens of Czechs who had tickets on inbound flights.

In addition, the protesting pilots claim that the CSA management and Minister of Finance are not telling the whole truth about the company’s financial performance (which has been tragic recently) and that the general downsizing, in terms of its fleet and number of employees, is hurting the company “beyond repair”. According to a letter sent by the airline’s top manager to the employees, pilots will be able to fly for the sister charter airline. However, the company offers much lower salaries, the iDNES.cz news server wrote. The chairman of the pilots’ professional association was quoted by AFP as saying that transferring aircraft between these two companies is just like holding your bag in your right hand and switch it to your left hand.

Czech Airlines announced on Friday evening that it had managed to make arrangements for all Saturday flights.

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Best restaurant guide on sale for $0.65

In Economy on May 19, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Grand Restaurant is a prestigious guide to the best restaurants in the Czech Republic. It is edited by gourmet and restaurant expert Pavel Maurer and it features mostly expensive places to eat. The most recent issue, however, is now on sale in the “Levne knihy” (Cheap Books) bookstore chain for CZK 10 ($0.65). Its original price was CZK 170 ($10).

Levne knihy is a chain of bookstores that sells anything but bestsellers. Its offer includes novels by virtually unknown authors, cook books, how-to manuals, sudoku books or music albums by long-forgotten artists. As for contemporary authors, Levne knihy often sells recent books that have proved to be a huge bummer in terms of reader interest (autobiographies, for example…).

It is ironic that a guide to expensive restaurants is on sale in a store selling cheap and mostly crappy literature. I think it is safe to assume that people who frequent, and eat at, top-class restaurants do not shop at Levne knihy. And vice versa… I think one of the reasons is that the “list” has so far been published by various media outlets.

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Eternal students to pay hefty fines

In Economy,Education & Science on April 29, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Public colleges and universities in the Czech Republic are free. With some minor exceptions, students pay no tuition, provided they manage to keep the length of their studies within the stipulated limits. If they don’t, they pay “fees” or “fines”. The Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University in Brno decided to drastically increase these fees – and students protest.

Until now the fee has been CZK 14,400. According to the new system it should be CZK 24,000 as of the next academic year. The faculty’s vice-dean claims that students who have been studying way too long cost the school a lot of money. The protesters, on the other hand, admit that a certain fee is acceptable but the way the faculty management communicated this change to students is not. They started a petition. So far approximately 500 students have signed it.

Students on all three levels (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral) are allowed a certain number of semesters. If they fail to collect the necessary number of credit points or to pass all exams, they may pay for extra semesters. However, many of them do it intentionally for various reasons (work, family, internships…): and these students would have deserved to know about the plan at least one year in advance, so as to allow them to reschedule their studies. According to the protesters, this did not happen.

The obligation to pay also applies to many students who already have a degree from another school or who dropped out and started all over at a different school. The fact is that the number of years spent at a college or university is added up.

The protesters do not expect to succeed with their petition, with one tiny exception. Some of their lawyers say that there is a procedural error in the process from the very beginning, so it may be declared invalid altogether. No decision or resolution has been reached so far…

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How I did not become an ATC controller

In Economy,Personal,Prague on April 24, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: ,

Being an air traffic controller is one of the most stressful things ever, I was told. You have in your hands the lives of hundreds of people at a time. I have always been fascinated by airports, commercial airlines and aircraft. When I found out about a month ago that a certain Czech air traffic control authority was hiring, I sent my resume immediately.

However, things did not go the way I planned, even though I started well. Having tried a sample English language test (score: 100 percent) I was pretty confident. I mentioned in my resume my long-time interest in said issues, my extensive theoretical knowledge of all the ground and in-flight procedures and terminology.

I was prepared to move to Prague, because, as I was told, the initial training takes place in the ATC facility on the outskirts of Prague (some two miles from the touchdown zone of one of the runways at Prague Ruzyne Airport). Then the HR manager sent me a warning note. It was something I did not expect but, as it turned out, it was a necessary preventive step on their part, due to previous experience with other job candidates.

The note said that successful candidates have to undergo 18-month training. They are employees of the ATC authority during this period of time, but their gross pay is only CZK 13,000 a month. One cannot live on this salary in Prague, if one does not have a loving partner who supports the family (couple) during this period of time. Of course, I did not expect to be paid the full salary (which is pretty good), but the aforementioned amount is just not possible.

A friend of mine who loves plane spotting way more than I do said “It is a widely known fact. You should have asked me before you sent the resume. I have a friend who did it anyway. He was on macaroni and cheese almost for a whole year. Says it was worth it”.

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Broke first-league footballer took a demeaning job

In Economy,Sports on April 21, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Slavia Prague is a first-league (association) football club that has so far won seventeen titles. On the other hand, it has not paid its first-league players since January. Its midfielder, Mali’s Bassirou Dembele, had to take a part-time job – handing out leaflets, the Sport daily wrote.

The leaflets are small advertisements for a restaurant owned by a fan of the club, located in the very heart of Prague. However, he only works for food served in the restaurant, not for money.

The club’s financial situation has left numerous younger players without money. While older players have saved up some thanks to their previous engagements abroad, Dembele is among those who did not, although he used to play in France. According to a football expert quoted by the daily, players from Africa are expected to send money home to support families, while young Czech novice players may as well move back with their parents. Furthermore, many footballers from Africa are known for spending money – but it is not the case of Dembele.

Slavia Prague is in the middle of extensive negotiations regarding a strong investor who would help the club pay debts, otherwise the club can lose its first league license. A certain diamond producer announced a few days ago they were prepared to “pump the money into the club” but they backed out from the deal because they found the ownership structure of the club way too vague and confusing.

Photo (c) Slavia Prague

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Test: Vietnamese salesmen do not haggle

In Economy on April 19, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka

According to the Vietnamtravel.org server, haggling is a mandatory part of the shopping procedure in Vietnam. It is a game, the server writes. There are thousands of Vietnamese businessmen in the Czech Republic who are known for selling cheap clothes, shoes or toys. They do not haggle, my own test showed.

Number one: small shack next to the Brno main train station. When I pretended I wanted to buy running shoes that do not have to pretty. “I need really ordinary shoes for running in the woods,” I said to the salesman. “These cost CZK 450 but I can get similar shoes for CZK 350 almost next door.” The young man who did not seem older than thirty just smiled politely but did not react.

Number two: a few “doors” down the Vietnamese market stall had a Czech employee. It seemed pointless to try Vietnamese haggling strategies on her… “Are these fixed prices?” I asked anyway. “I heard that you can try to haggle in Vietnam.” “The owner defined the prices. I am not gonna haggle with you, I have never done it,” she said.

Number three: at the bus station. You would expect shops and cafes and similar services that travellers usually need or require. No, there are Vietnamese “huts” selling junk at the main bus station in Brno (of course, there are some cafes, too). “I need a bag like this, but not for CZK 300,” I tried my strategy again. The Vietnamese clerk responded kindly: “If you want to spend CZK 200, we have these, they are somewhat smaller…” but when I tried to put the bag back… “Okay, CZK 200,” she changed her mind.

I tried six times, only one person responded to haggling attempts, which – I think – confirms what the Vietnamtravel.org server wrote: “Haggling must be a traditional aspect of the nation’s culture, so that (almost) everybody can profit from it. When somebody gets a really good deal, somebody else must compensate it”.

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Czechs and their very messy ways of waste separation

In Economy,Nature,Technology on January 5, 2011 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

Good news first: according to Eurostat figures, Czechs are number one on the list of European countries when it comes to waste separation, especially plastic bottles. Special bins (yellow for said bottles, blue for paper, green for glass, etc.) were hard to find some five years ago but now they are everywhere. And now for some bad news: in order to separate waste for the purpose of recycling, some people make terrible mess that is nothing but eyesore for a couple of days. And employees of the companies that empty the special bins into dedicated trucks have to clean it up.

The picture above says it all. It was taken on January 3. Three days after the celebrations of the new year thousands of households had to get rid of empty alcohol bottles. And since the green bins had already been overflowing, some messy people decided not to take their own garbage back home — they decided to make it other people’s problem by placing the bottles around the already full bins. This is not an unusual (“January 1-only”) sight. Many bins get full faster than expected and the recycling companies don’t have enough time and capacities to empty them more often.

Despite the positive statistics, lately some people have become frustrated when they learned that sometimes the separated waste is taken to dumps anyway: when companies that use plastic fibre need much less for their production. According to the Mesec.cz financial news server several Czech companies even began selling their trucks and laying off people.

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