Business

14 Apr 2021, 15:04 PM

STA, 13 April 2021 - Trade unionists have come out against legislative amendments that would provide the legal basis for ride hailing platforms such as Uber arguing they often violate labour rights. Refuting the charge, Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said the goal was to make transport services cheaper and more modern.

Amendments to the road transport act, which the minister expects to be passed in May, would add app-based ride services for a pre-agreed price to taximeter-based taxi services.

Saška Kiara Kumer, secretary-general of the Trade Union of Transport and Communications Workers, said that ride hailing platforms had proved exceptionally bad for employees.

Addressing reporters on Tuesday, she noted that Uber has many legal disputes open with workers and has lost some of them. "In places where it has been welcomed under its terms, precarisation increased and the safety of rides decreased."

"We're not changing any existing rules with the bill. All drivers, regardless of whether they use a taximeter or an app, will need to have an employment relationship under the valid labour law with all the permits, which vitally excludes undeclared work," Minister Vrtovec said in response to the unionist press conference.

Kumer urged the proposal be withdrawn and submitted for inter-departmental adjustments, arguing the Labour Ministry had not been involved and the bill should have been debated by the Economic and Social Council, an industrial relations forum.

Commenting on that, Vrtovec said the Economic and Social Council had been acquainted with the bill and had backed it by two votes to one. The government and employers voted in favour.

"Some people in this country are for preserving monopolies, they're willing to do everything in their power to keep them, from closing down streets, to making threats, insults, shouting in meetings when we want to talk," said the minister, denouncing the conduct as unacceptable and deplorable.

Taxi drivers are sole proprietors and are using their own cars and leasing costly services from dispatch centres, the minister said, adding: "Under this law the rules will be the same for all."

However, the union disagreed with the claim of a monopoly in the taxi services market. Kumer said even now most drivers barely made ends meet, and if they worked for Uber they would earn even less.

The taxi union's shop steward Petra Krištof said Uber drivers had to pay a much higher cut of the revenue to the platform than Slovenian taxi drivers paid to dispatch centres for linking them with the clients.

Tea Jarc of the youth Trade Union argued the bill would only reduce labour standards and expand the room for precarious work forms. She said Uber was violating worker rights because it does not recognise drivers as employees, and was undermining transport and workplace security standards.

She also noted the issue of vulnerability of Uber's databases on drivers and clients.

Meanwhile, Vrtovec cited an opinion poll by Valicon in which 52% of those questioned said taxi services were often overcharged. "Even more, as many as 57% agree with the claim that foreigners and tourists are often charged higher fares and 40% believe the drivers take the long way."

He said the ministry wanted to lend an ear to the citizens. "We were appointed to improve services. That's also why we took on the changes to the legislation that has a long history."

The minister said the amendments were not drawn up for Uber alone. "Why we're talking only about this provider. We can talk about apps that can also be developed by the Slovenian market. The main thing is that Slovenian labour law is respected and that taxes are paid in Slovenia," he said.

The amendments are to be debated on the relevant parliamentary committee in May, after which they will be put to a vote at the plenary session, expectedly the same month, Vrtovec said, adding that from the end of May on the door would be open to a better system of rides.

14 Apr 2021, 11:06 AM

STA, 13 April 2021 - The Slovenian aircraft producer Pipistrel has entered a partnership with a Chinese logistics company to develop a large uncrewed commercial aircraft that will be able to carry more than 300 kg of cargo to the distance of 500 kilometres and altitude of 6,000 m.

The aircraft is commissioned by SF Express, and its Munich-based subsidiary Amazilia Aerospace will develop an advanced digital system for the innovative cargo aircraft designed and manufactured by Pipistrel.

Announcing the deal, the Ajdovščina-based company said that the Chinese partner intends to use the aircraft mostly for cargo transportation to remote and hard-to-access locations.

It will be able to carry cargo with a volume of up to 2.3 m3. Vertical take-off and landing will be possible up to an altitude of 2,500 metres.

The unmanned commercial aircraft will be equipped with eight propulsion systems for vertical take-off powered by Pipistrel's E-811 electric motors with high-performance batteries.

It will be able to continue to fly even if two of the eight motors fail, the company said, adding that design and production of the prototype components would take place in Pipistrel facilities.

It is believed that uncrewed aerial vehicles will become the main means of transportation in China, as SF Express alone will need more than a thousand of such aircraft in the next ten years.

On the occasion, Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol said that "one of the largest logistics companies in the world picking Pipistrel ... is a great acknowledgment to its know-how and achievements in more than a decade of work in electric aviation".

13 Apr 2021, 19:21 PM

STA, 13 April 2021 - The Finance Ministry has drafted a proposal to lower VAT on women's sanitary products from 22% to 9.5%, Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said on Tuesday answering a question from an MP.

In her initiative, Bojana Muršič of the opposition Social Democrats (SD) says women's sanitary products in Slovenia are subject to the highest of the two VAT rates, while some other hygiene products for general use, such as cotton wool, gauze or nappies, are taxed at 9.5%.

She thus proposed a change to VAT implementation regulations to place women sanitary products among other hygiene products, as EU VAT rules allow for that.

Last month the opposition Left filed to parliament a bill to lower VAT on women's sanitary products to 5%, with the SD's youth and women's wings also supporting the idea.

The initiatives come after some EU member states have already reduced or are planning to reduce what is nicknamed the "tampon tax".

12 Apr 2021, 14:04 PM

STA, 12 April 2021 - The sub-zero temperatures hitting last week could result in EUR 40-50 million in damage caused to fruit and wine growers, Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek said on Monday as he continued visiting the frost-stricken areas. This is on a par with 2016 and 2017, when damage reached some EUR 45 million. He announced state aid measures.

Podgoršek visited Trebnje in the south-east of the country and State Secretary Anton Harej was in the Vipava Valley in the region of Primorska, west.

The minister said it was still too early for the final estimate of the damage, but noted there will be practically no Slovenian fruit this year.

The Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief will be asked to assess the damage across the country, and also include the March frost in Primorska, west.

The minister said the government will help out with state aid, including an emergency bill to possibly lower or write off rent for affected farmers who rent state land.

Pension contributions could also be written off, while just like in 2016 and 2017, compensation for the loss of income will be considered. Ways to buy grapes and fruit from some farmers will also be examined.

Podgoršek agrees that procedures to obtain permits for irrigation and anti-frost systems should be sped up, something to be looked into together with the Environment Ministry.

What is more, a solution should be found to be more ambitious in such investments, he said, announcing his ministry will publish in May a EUR 20 million call for climate change-related investments.

Boštjan Kozole, the head of fruit growers at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), said systemic solutions should be sought to set up sprinkler systems in at least a third of all orchids. His estimate is that last week's frost could reduce this year's fruit harvest by over 80%.

State Secretary Harej meanwhile said entire Primorska - from the coast in the south, to the Vipava Valley and further north in Goriška Brda - had been severely affected, with the entire harvest ruined in some of these areas.

Eighty to hundred percent of apricots, peaches and cherries were damaged in entire Primorska, he told the press after he completed the visit in Ajdovščina.

The state will probably write off the entire rent for farmers renting state land in this low-lying area where the frost was severest, he said.

Orchid growers using the Vogršček irrigation system will meanwhile not have to pay this year's fee as the system is not active because it is being upgraded.

Loans farmers have taken out in recent years could also be rescheduled, the state secretary announced.

"The damage to the crops is considerable, there will be practically no fruit from these orchids this year," said Branimir Radikon from the Nova Gorica Agriculture and Forestry Service.

12 Apr 2021, 10:13 AM

STA, 11 April 2021 - AK Automotive, a Turkish-owned company, to expand production and has recently purchased a production facility in Koper it used to lease from Cimos. It plans to invest more than EUR 20 million in the location within a year.

AK Automotive was set up in 2018 by Kücükoglu Holding, which acquired Cimos's kinematics business the same year.

The company now manufactures car parts for Audi, Daimler, Volkswagen and Aston Martin, AK Automotive director Bülent Göral has told the STA.

Apart from the existing facility, the company intends to build a new one on some 2,000 square metres to install a new machine for the manufacture of larger car parts and chassis segments.

"Given the factories of our clients, we see this factory as having a strategic location," Göral said.

The company did not reveal its financials, but Göral said it had finished the past two years in the red, as expected.

The number of employees is expected to increase from 75 to 95 by the end of 2021 and to 220 by the end of 2023, of whom around 30% would be engineers and technicians.

09 Apr 2021, 15:37 PM

STA, 9 April 2021 - The cold snap that hit Slovenia this week caused damage to all types of fruit orchards nation-wide, as well causing injury to vineyards, olive groves and legumes, initial estimates by the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry (KGZS) show. In some areas all fruit crop is gone.

"Never before have fruit growers been in such a difficult situation," Boris Orešek, the head of the KGZS's fruit growing section, told an online press conference on Friday after record low temperatures wreaked havoc at orchards and plantations across the country.

"On the one hand we have cold rooms still full of last year's apples and pears that are hard to sell, and on the other hand we have orchards all empty due to the frost," said Orešek.

The damage was caused by extremely low temperatures and the lengthy frost. The region of Primorska, which has the mildest climate, has had frost since March and in other parts of the country it set in at the beginning of this week. The coldest were the nights to Wednesday and Thursday.

Injury to apple and pear blossoms in the Maribor, Celje and Ptuj areas is 50-70%, while the proportion of damaged blossoms of other trees such as peaches and plums is 60-100%.

In Istria and Primorska even vegetables in greenhouses were affected by temperatures that fell to minus 6.5 Celsius and in the broader Nova Gorica area 80-100% of fruit trees are injured.

Andreja Brence, a specialist on fruit growing from Novo Mesto, described the situation in Dolenjska, Bela Krajina and Posavje as a "catastrophe", assessing there would be but a handful of stone tree fruits this year.

Alenka Caf, an official from Ljubljana reported about damage to blueberries, despite them being used to low temperatures.

The growers that have used over-tree sprinklers to protect their orchards have been able to rescue some of the crop, and some have resorted to burning fires and creating smoke, all of are effective measures to an extent.

However, Brence said this time the problem was exceptionally low temperatures for the time of year, dropping to minus 10 Celsius and lower in some parts.

Data from the Agricultural Institute show between 100 and 120 hectares of orchards in Slovenia have over-tree sprinkler systems, which means less than 3% of all intensive plantations, the institute's official Matej Stopar said.

Farming consultants highlighted the red tape involved in investments in such systems as well as the fact that the systems in place in the Vipava Valley are not functioning because the irrigation system there is under reconstruction.

KGZS boss Roman Žveglič appealed for prompt state aid in response to the disaster. "The sooner the government realises there will be no food without agriculture, the easier will be for us to make changes and urgent adjustments."

The chamber is drawing up a number of proposals, including for an emergency act and a law that would simplify procedures to acquire permits for irrigation and sprinkler systems and allow to put them in place wherever there is enough water.

They are also calling for exempting Covid state aid to the sector from tax and Orešek called for direct financial aid for fruit growers and write-offs of some levies and rents, among other things, which he said were needed for the industry to survive over the next two years.

Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek has already appointed a taskforce to find solutions to mitigate the disaster, including an emergency bill to help those affected, as well as exemptions for social security contributions.

The minister is expected to inspect the damage on the ground on Monday when he is also due to meet the stakeholders to discuss solutions and adaptation to climate change.

08 Apr 2021, 18:16 PM

STA, 8 April 2021 - The SPIRIT agency issued on Thursday a second call for micro, small and medium-sized tourism and hospitality companies for the co-funding of operating costs in the first wave of the epidemic in spring 2020. EUR 36.2 million is available and over 6,000 companies are expected to apply, with the aid to be paid out at the end of June. [Details on the website – Slovene only]

Firms will receive a lump sum ranging from EUR 900 to EUR 9,999 for the period between 12 March and 31 May 2020, said the SPIRIT agency for entrepreneurship, internationalization, foreign investments and technology.

The money is meant to help them remain in business and preserve jobs, or to relaunch after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, SPIRIT said in a statement.

The agency's director Tomaž Kostanjevec said SPIRIT was aware that the country's tourism and hospitality companies had been hit hardest.

He said that at least 6,400 companies are expected to apply for funds as part of the second scheme.

SPIRIT published the first such call last November, making EUR 10 million available for up to 1,000 companies.

The lump sum was capped at EUR 9,999, with as many as 821 companies having received the aid. SPIRIT did not specify how much money had been paid out.

Two groups are now eligible: companies which have their financials publicly available in the AJPES database for 2019 and those which do not have them in the AJPES database but have had their taxes assessed by the Financial Administration on the basis of their reported income.

Those from the first group will get a lump sum at 16.5% of their 2019 costs, labour costs excluded, and those from the second group at 12% of their entire costs. . [Details on the website – Slovene only]

01 Apr 2021, 12:35 PM

STA, 31 March 2021 - Households in Slovenia saved a record high share of their disposable income in the coronavirus year 2020, while their final consumption expenditure saw a record drop, the Statistics Office (SURS) said on Wednesday.

While gross disposable income usually declines or stagnates in crises, transfers as part of government measures to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 prevented this potential decline at the aggregate level, SURS explained.

Gross disposable income of households rose by 9.8% or EUR 716 million in nominal terms in the last quarter of 2020 annually to EUR 8.04 billion.

In the entire year 2020, gross disposable income of households was by 3.8% higher than the year before.

Households' final consumption expenditure meanwhile dropped by 15.4% to EUR 5.67 billion in the October-December period nominally compared to the same quarter in 2019.

In the whole of 2020, it dropped by 10.3% annually, the sharpest decrease to date and first since 2013.

"We can see that the coronavirus pandemic and measures to mitigate its consequences significantly affect households' consumption and saving behaviour," SURS commented.

With much lower final consumption expenditure, households' savings increased more sharply.

The gross household saving rate, which shows a share of gross savings in a household's gross disposable income, rose by 20.8 percentage points in the fourth quarter to 30.2% compared to the last quarter in 2019.

The first annual estimate shows that households in Slovenia in 2020 saved 25.1% of their gross disposable income, up 11.7 points over 2019.

The increase in the gross household saving rate in the fourth quarter and in the entire 2020 was the largest so far, said SURS.

More on this data

30 Mar 2021, 16:50 PM

STA, 30 March 2021 - The Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS) hosted on Tuesday Labour Minister Janeza Cigler Kralj to express protest over the renewed closure of small businesses, which they find discriminatory given that large companies will be able to resume their work without disruption.

tive committee of the OZS expressed concern and disappointment over the services sector being subjected to another Covid-19 closure which will take place at least from 1 to 11 April, the chamber said in a press release.

"We cannot accept the theory that the possibility of infection in small workshops and salons is greater than in large production halls with 500 or 1,000 employees. Our members tell us that they want to work and not receive aid," OZS president Branko Meh said.

He called on Cigler Kralj to communicate to the government that people should simply get used to living and working with the virus, noting that many people would lose their jobs because of the business closure.

"We no longer accept the government closing small business. If you think that the disease is so severe, then close everybody, the entire economy. This is what you should tell Prime Minister Janez Janša," Meh said.

The minister said he "understands and hears" that small businesses are in an uneven position. "We have preserved 300,000 jobs with measures. Employment of unemployed persons was up by 14.5% in 2020 over the year before," he noted.

Cigler Kralj also pointed to the importance of vaccination, and noted that the government had endorsed his proposal for subsidised quarantine and absence from work due to force majeure be extended until the end of April.

However, the OZS said it did not get an answer to the question why the government had decided to close small businesses. Blaž Cvar of the chamber's hospitality and tourism industry section noted that the situation in the sector was critical.

"We have been closed for seven months and a half, bar for delivery. Each month of closure means a 8.3% drop in turnover," he said, adding that this meant that only the establishments that had been fully closed would be eligible for compensation.

"Our members expect compensation for the loss of turnover and different conditions for aid measures. Many of them are excluded from all measures because they do not meet the criteria of a 50% drop in revenue," Cvar warned.

Drago Delalut of the Association of Employers in Craft and Small Business said the hospitality industry could easily operate safely, and that there was "concern that we will have the staff once our establishments are reopened".

Our employees have taken loans and they need social security. This is why our staff is running away to other industries. Please let us work," he said.

29 Mar 2021, 12:34 PM

STA, 29 March 2021 - The Slovenian subsidiary of the French car interior components maker Treves is to be shut down in September, which means a hundred people will be left jobless. The announcement comes after the plant based in the village of near Trebnje was hit by a massive fire in January.

The decision to withdraw from Slovenia after 16 years was recently made by the core company in France and Treves CEO Andrej Baškovič confirmed the news for the STA on Monday.

According to unofficial information obtained by the STA, the decision is related to the damage caused by the January fire and the Novo Mesto-based Revoz, one of Treves's main clients, securing only mid-term orders for the Renault Twingo model guaranteed, while its fate after 2024 is not known.

In line with a statement from the French company Treves SA, obtained by the STA, the plant in Slovenia will be shut down because of poor business prospects. The core company also decided not to renovate the factory after the January fire.

The company employs 102 people and will be shut down in September.

MAP

Treves pledged to take measures to reduce the negative impact on workers as much as possible. Information on the number of dismissed workers, the date of lay-offs and possible measures will be presented after talks with all stakeholders.

The employees were informed of the plant closure on Thursday, Treves said.

In January, a blaze engulfed the majority of the Treves building, damaging a part of the production lines for car carpets and sound insulation, as well as offices, with parts of the roof also caving in.

After the fire, a part of production was temporarily moved to a sister company in Spain. The supply to Treves's buyers in Slovenia, Austria, France, Italy and Slovakia was restored in three weeks.

Baškovič announced renovation of the parts of the factory affected by the fire at the time, as the company does not own the building.

A plan for renovation was said to have been in the making and the renovation was being discussed with the owner of the facility. Baškovič assessed at the time that production was to be fully restored in a few months.

The company lost half of its facilities, virtually all of its machines and almost all raw materials to the fire. Most of the tools were destroyed or damaged and had to be repaired to restore regular supply to the company's clients.

The CEO assessed the damage caused by the fire, which also led to a four-day suspension of production at Revoz, at several million euro.

27 Mar 2021, 10:16 AM

STA, 26 March 2021 - The National Assembly passed on Friday amendments to the act on employment, self-employment and work of foreigners which transpose a major 2016 EU directive.

The directive sets down the conditions of entry and residence of third-country citizens for the purposes of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training, voluntary service and au pairing.

Under the amendments, passed in a 47:12 vote, a new combined residency and work permit and a new temporary residence permit will be available.

There are also new rules for temporary residence for foreign researchers wishing to work in Slovenia, and for students who have completed studies here.

A second set of amendments attempts to curb abuse, for example the practice where employers lay off workers after nine months and then re-hire them three months later.

"This kind of optimisation by employers is not justified," Economy Ministry State Secretary Mateja Ribič told MPs.

The majority of MPs endorsed the legislation as making Slovenia a more attractive destination for researchers and their family members as well as for students.

The only dissenting voices came from the Left and the National Party (SNS), the former opining that the government was adopting laws making it more difficult for foreigners to settle here, and the latter opposing on the grounds that arrivals of foreigners should be curtailed.

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