Employers' Association Calls for Freeze of Minimum Wage

By , 28 Oct 2020, 15:31 PM Business
One of Plečnik's unrealised projects on the 10 cent coin One of Plečnik's unrealised projects on the 10 cent coin Bank of Slovenia

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STA, 28 October 2020 - The Employers' Association (Združenje delodajalcev Slovenije - ZDS) called on the government on Wednesday to freeze the minimum wage for at least a year as part of the planned sixth anti-corona package. It also proposes a more flexible and simpler framework for teleworking and retiring upon meeting minimum retirement conditions.

"Employers are aware that each anti-corona package so far has brought upgrades of previous measures as well as new measures.

"Our proposals have been acknowledged during negotiations, however the Employers' Association has been noting an urgent need for certain labour market measures since March, measures that have not been included in the packages so far, and we expect them in the sixth anti-corona package."

The employers deem freezing the minimum wage a priority measure.

The new formula for setting the minimum wage, which enters into force in January, does not envisage coordinating the minimum wage with social partners; instead it excludes employers and trade unions from the procedure and puts the Labour Ministry in charge of determining the amount, said the association.

"The existing law has also never been discussed by the Economic and Social Council, it was adopted without social dialogue and without taking into account any of the arguments of businesses."

The Slovenian economy is in the middle of the gravest economic crisis in the past 70 years due to Covid-19, said the association, adding that the general consensus of opinion is that 2021 will not see recovery let alone results similar to those in 2019.

In such circumstances the economy cannot stand even minimum pressure in regard to labour costs, said the association, noting that any minimum wage raise, which would lead to pay raises in general, would be unimaginable during such a crisis.

A month ago, Sonja Šmuc, the director general of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said that GZS projections showed the minimum wage will rise by at least 9% based on the new formula that puts it 20% above the minimum cost of living.

She warned that the last substantial rise in the minimum wage a decade ago caused a structural unemployment situation and had a long-lasting impact.

Šmuc argued now is not the time to experiment with a new formula and urged that the minimum wage be preserved at current levels at least in 2021.

The opposition Left, which drafted the new law, responded to today's call by the Employers' Association by saying that the organisation had overlooked the needs of workers and their families in following its own interests.

"The new concept of the minimum wage, which is being introduced gradually, is a guarantee that no one who works will live in poverty," said the Left, adding that certain representatives of the capital were trying to prevent the realisation of this concept.

The party also said that employers had received a significant financial aid from the state, which is why the cost of the minimum wage raise would be "a drop in the ocean" compared to those amounts.

Another organisation that appealed to the government for help today is the Chamber of Commerce (TZS).

The closure of shops during the epidemic has aggravated the situation of retailers, warned the chamber, calling for the sixth stimulus package to feature aid for companies whose operations have been restricted or suspended due to anti-corona restrictions.

Non-grocery retailers are among worst-hit business sectors, said the TZS, adding that those that are required to be closed or partially closed generate 30% of Slovenia's total retail income.

Such companies have been pushed to the limits of financial capacities and jobs have been jeopardised, pointed out the chamber, deeming government aid vital.

The TZS proposes Slovenia follow Austria's example of a fixed-cost subsidy scheme to help retailers come out on top of the coronavirus crisis.

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