Business

08 Sep 2020, 11:12 AM

STA, 7 September 2020 - Slovenia has for years now been witnessing a rise of precarious forms of labour, which mostly exclude the right to paid sick leave, holiday, lunch and transport allowances. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse and while NGOs, calling for systemic changes, are pessimistic, the Labour Ministry is planning some steps in the autumn.

Absent a formal definition of precarious work in Slovenia, estimates of the number of precarious workers vary. The Statistics Office, counting student workers, agency workers, those working short-time involuntarily, and the self-employed working for a single employer, put the figure at 39,000 in the first quarter this year.

The Movement for Dignified Work and Welfare Society estimates the figure much higher, at between 200,000 and 250,000, as it also factors in those on fixed-term contracts and the self-employed who work for several clients but are exposed to competition.

Speaking with the STA, Mirsad Begić of the ZSSS trade union confederation pointed the finger at state institutions and employers as regards the absence of a single definition, while he also took issue with the distinguishing between legal and illegal precarious labour arrangements.

He argued this took normal labour arrangements out of the picture and suggested precarious work was only about exploitation that is illegal. "Such a rendering of the concept is misleading, since people are often excessively exploited even in entirely legal forms of work."

Borut Brezar in Hana Radilovič of the the Movement for Dignified Work and Welfare Society moreover warned that the coronavirus crisis further aggravated the status of precarious workers, who often live below the poverty line.

A study conducted recently among the self-employed showed a third were feeling depressed while 14% even had suicidal thoughts after starting the path of self-employment.

Aid provided to the self-employed during the epidemic amounted to EUR 350 in basic income in March and EUR 700 each in April and May along with covered social contributions.

While calling for systemic measures, the union and movement are pessimistic as regards promises of political action. "It seems that it still holds in politics that changes are avoided by forming a taskforce," said Brezar and Radilovič, pointing out this had also happened without any results under the past two governments.

The movement is proposing a minimum hourly wage for precarious work forms and paid sick-leave for the self-employed, while it also promotes changes to public procurement rules, which often prioritise cheap bidders that exploit workers.

Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Janez Cigler Kralj told the STA he was aware of the negative impact of precarious work at the micro and macro levels.

"At the micro level we speak of negative effects in terms of the absence of minimal legal, economic and social security. At the macro level, it is the existence and maintenance of social security systems and tax policy that are affected," he said.

Calling for measures based on in-depth studies, he said he was looking forward to the results of a multidisciplinary analysis of precarious work, which will be presented in the autumn. "If needed, we will propose measures on the basis of this," he announced.

One perceived issue is the absence of collective organisation among precarious workers. Begić pointed out that a Trade Union of Precarious Workers had been formed almost four years ago but had so far failed to win proper recognition.

"There have been no tangible results due to the difficult situation of those affected, the tough conditions for unions in general and scarce resources," he said.

07 Sep 2020, 12:56 PM

STA, 7 September 2020 - Ikea is looking for more than 300 staff for its first Slovenia store, due to open in Ljubljana later this year. Candidates for various positions in sales, logistics, customer relations and customer support, restaurants and other departments can apply for a job by the end of September.

According to the representatives of the Swedish furniture retailer, they began the process of mass employment in Slovenia today. All vacancies will be open until the end of September, followed by interviews and evaluations of registered candidates in October.

"We are pleased to be able to offer unlimited opportunities in a global company to candidates who are interested in working with us," said Cas Lachaert, market manager at Ikea Slovenia. They are looking for employees from a wide variety of backgrounds, while preferring those who believe in the company's values.

In the spring, when the Ljubljana unit hired about 20 staff, Ikea received about 200 applications for each job advertised.

The store is being built in the BTC City shopping district in Ljubljana. When the foundation stone was laid in October last year, it was announced the store would be built within a year. It will cover more than 31,000 square meters and offer almost 10,000 products.

Details of the open jobs at Ikea in Ljubljana

07 Sep 2020, 10:44 AM

STA, 4 September 2020 - Builder Kolektor Koling signed the latest in a series of high-value construction contract in Croatia on Friday, this time for a EUR 35 million reconstruction of transport surfaces and rails at the port of Rijeka.

The work on the project, 85% of which is financed through the EU's Connecting Europe Facility fund, will start in December, Kolektor said.

The Slovenian builder will renovate over 110,000 square metres of surfaces, 1,625 metres of crane tracks and over 12 kilometres of rail tracks along with several other essential infrastructure segments at the port.

Kolektor Koling said this was already the second major project agreed in Rijeka in the recent three months, while the company's director spoke of over EUR 200 million worth of construction work secured in Croatia in the recent period.

Kolektor is presently building the main road section between Škurin and the Rijeka port estimated at EUR 75 million, as well as a wastewater collection, disposal and treatment system on the island of Krk estimated at over EUR 44 million.

Other ongoing projects include the development of multimodal platforms at the Rijeka port in conjunction with the Jadranska Vrata terminal worth EUR 37 million, and water supply reconstruction for the city of Petrinja, estimated at EUR 35 million, Kolektor Koling said.

07 Sep 2020, 10:39 AM

STA, 31 August 2020 - Comtrade CDS, the largest Slovenian IT company in terms of workforce size, has been acquired by the British IT company Endava in a deal worth EUR 60 million, the business newspaper Finance reported on Monday.

According to Finance, Comtrade CDS was recently spun off from the Slovenian arm of the Serbian Comtrade group, and consists of the divisions for digital services and system integration, which together accounted for almost two thirds of Comtrade's EUR 70.5 million in revenue last year.

The roots of the Slovenian Comtrade arm go back to the former Ljubljana IT company Hermes SoftLab, which was bought by Serbian entrepreneur Veselin Jevrosimović in 2008 for roughly half of what was paid now by Endava.

The Endava deal involves a company with employees with offices in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the headquarters in Dublin. The Slovenian part of the Comtrade group had a workforce of 672 people last year and its core company 498, which makes it the largest Slovenian IT company in this respect.

Finance quotes Comtrade CEO Alexis Lope-Bello as describing Endava as the right partner that will nurture and develop CDS in ways Comtrade was not able to.

London-based Endava was registered in 2000 and primarily focuses on IT services for telecommunication, financial institutions, logistics, healthcare and the public sector. Employing almost 6,500 people, it generated EUR 386 million in sales revenue in the 12 months running up to March this year.

02 Sep 2020, 12:04 PM

STA, 2 September 2020 - The Finance Ministry has proposed a raising of excise duties that entails a 4.8% increase in the average price of a pack of cigarettes in October. The prices of other tobacco products will also go up, while heat-not-burn products and electronic cigarettes will not be affected. The rise is expected to bring in an additional EUR 18 million a year.

In line with the proposal, to be discussed by the government at one of its forthcoming sessions, excise duty per 1,000 cigarettes will increase from 114 to 120 euros.

The rise, expected to take effect on 1 October, will also affect cigarettes, cigarillos, fine-cut tobacco and other types of smoking tobacco. The duties for heat-not-burn tobacco and electronic cigarette will not change.

Excise duties for tobacco products last increased in June 2019.

01 Sep 2020, 11:21 AM

STA, 31 August 2020 - Slovenia's economy has been hammered hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown with fresh data from the Statistics Office showing the country's output contracted by 13% in real terms in the second quarter compared with the same quarter a year ago. The second straight quarter of negative growth puts Slovenia in a technical recession.

Seasonally adjusted GDP decreased by 9.6% compared with the first quarter, and by 12.9% year-on-year. This means that the country's economy shrunk at an annual rate of 7.9% in the first half of the year.

Revised data from the Statistics Office show the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of decline in the first quarter, at the end of which Slovenia declared the epidemic and put public life on hold, was 3.7%, which compares to an earlier estimate of 3.4%.

The year-on-year contraction posted by Slovenia in the second quarter is somewhat lesser than the average for the eurozone and the EU running at -15.0% and -14.1%, respectively.

Fresh statistics show the country's shutdown imposed in mid-March had the biggest impact on domestic consumption, which slumped by 12% due to a 11.8% drop in final consumption expenditure and a 12.8% fall in gross capital formation.

Household final consumption expenditure slumped by 16.6%, of which 21.2% on the domestic market, with the highest decrease seen in consumption of fuels and services.

Gross fixed capital formation declined by 16.7% as construction investment decreased by 14.1% and investment in machinery and equipment slumped by 26.2%.

Due to a slump in external demand, exports fell by 24.5% compared with the second quarter of 2019; exports of goods decreased by 21.9% and exports of services fell by 35%.

Imports declined by 25%. Like in the case of exports, the slump in services was mainly observed in the travel industry.

The value added also declined, in particular in the hospitality sector, but the biggest negative impact was from manufacturing, said Romana Korenič from the Statistics Office.

Employment also fell in the second quarter, with the total of those in employment falling by 2% year-on-year to 1,023,200. Hit hardest were administrative and support services, manufacturing, and accommodation and food service activities.

On the upside, the situation started to improve in swathes of the economy the third quarter of the year, judging by macroeconomic data and survey among businesses and consumers.

Considering forecasts by domestic and international institutions, Slovenia's economy is not expected to contract by more than 8% this year, provided there are no new major shocks.

Signs of improvement were also noted by the Slovenian central bank in its response to the contraction in the output in the second quarter, which it said had been expectedly strong.

It said available data such as electricity consumption, tax revenue, the purchasing managers' index or business confidence suggest a considerable economic recovery in the summer.

As the coronavirus crisis set in, the central bank forecast a contraction of between 6% and 16% for the year depending on which of the three scenarios it had proposed would unfold.

"The current situation in the economy indicates the fall in the economic growth this year will be closer to the less adverse scenario, that is in accordance with our central forecast (of -6.5%)," said Banka Slovenije.

However, the central bank also noted that the situation is uncertain and that the recovery will largely depend on the development of the coronavirus pandemic and on how countries respond to a potential major outbreak.

"Due to the uncertainty, companies will keep postponing investment and households will remain cautiously frugal," a release from Banka Slovenije reads.

Similarly, IMAD, the government macroeconomic think-tank whose forecasts serve as a basis for state budgeting, said the contraction was within its expectations, with an improvement expected in the third quarter.

Noting that business sentiment and consumer confidence have been picking up since May, IMAD said they were still below the levels seen prior to the global coronavirus outbreak.

"In the third quarter we can expect a quarterly improvement or a lesser year-on-year decline in economic activity. With the presence of the virus and a new increase in infections in recent weeks, the situation remains uncertain, thus further fluctuation in economic activity is expected," commented IMAD director Maja Bednaš.

More data on this can be found on SURS

31 Aug 2020, 12:07 PM

STA, 28 August 2020 - After months of delays, first because of complaints in the contracting procedure and then due to the coronavirus pandemic, workers have finally started boring the second tube of the Karavanke Tunnel on the Slovenian side.

Turkish contractor Cengiz currently has 43 workers on site, a figure that is set to increase to 150 when boring is ramped up to a 24/7 cycle, according to Valentin Hajdinjak, the chairman of motorway company DARS.

Both Hajdinjak and Asim Cengiz, a member of the Cengiz board, told the press on Friday that the project, valued at just under EUR 100 million, will be completed on schedule and on budget. "Cengiz plans to complete the works before 2025," Asim Cengiz said.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said this was "a great day for Slovenia, for the entire logistics sector and for neighbouring countries."

He also expressed the wish that Cengiz enlist as many Slovenian subcontractor as possible, which he said he had also briefly discussed with the company's representatives.

The boring starts two and a half years after DARS issued a public call. It took until 22 January this year before the contracting procedure was completed.

The second tube of the motorway tunnel is just under eight kilometres long, with the Slovenian section measuring 3.5 kilometres. On the Austrian side boring is well under way.

31 Aug 2020, 11:52 AM

STA, 28 August 2020 - The merger of Dnevnik and Večer, the publishers of the third and fourth largest daily newspapers in Slovenia, respectively, as per 2019 data, has come to a halt, Dnevnik's owner Bojan Petan of publisher DZS and Večer's co-owner Uroš Hakl have confirmed.

Petan implied at Dnevnik's general assembly on Thursday that there were disagreements over ownership, whereas Hakl told the STA today that the reasons for putting the merger on hold were a matter of business.

According to Kristjan Verbič, the president of the VZMD association of small shareholders, Petan explained the situation in more detail at the meeting.

After the Competition Protection Agency (AVK) gave a green light for the merger in July 2019, the necessary proceedings were meant to be launched. Petan said at the time that the go-ahead was only the beginning of long-lasting and legally complex procedures though.

The break-up operation of the limited company Dnevnik was envisaged, pending a nod from its supervisors and stakeholders, said Verbič.

Newspaper Dnevnik would be turned into a subsidiary which would merge with Večer. Other Dnevnik editions would remain under the core company, which would not participate in the merger. Both newspapers were meant to continue being published as separate papers.

Petan, Dnevnik chairman, announced a meeting which would address the issue after the AVK green light, but such a discussion has not yet taken place. The merger was supposed to be finished by now though.

As quoted by Verbič, Petan explained on Thursday that the procedures got complicated after an independent value estimate of newspapers Dnevnik and Večer was requested. The estimate showed that Večer was worth some EUR 100,000 more than Dnevnik.

According to a previous agreement the companies would share ownership of the new entity called DV Mediji and Petan suggested Dnevnik contributed additional EUR 100,000. However, out of reasons unknown to him, Večer no longer agreed to that or to shared ownership and wanted a stronger share, said Verbič.

Petan told Dnevnik stakeholders on Thursday that the situation could be only the other way around since Dnevnik had been recording good results and had seen only a 2-3% drop in revenue.

He also highlighted that the AVK go-ahead remained, implying that the story could get an ending.

Rumours about the deal breakdown have been circulating, however Hakl has been denying any claims about that. Today, he was reticent about the situation, only saying that the procedure was put on ice.

Hakl later spoke to the STA to reject the allegation that the disagreements over ownership were the reason, saying instead that the true reason was an unrealistic appraisal of Dnevnik made on the basis of five-year business projections.

He said that these were made based on unrealistic costs of print and projections that revenue from advertisement marketing would grow by 10% a year.

"There is no media house globally which is capable of growing by 10% annually in advertisement marketing, let alone Dnevnik, which has recorded a noticeable trend of decreasing revenue from advertising," he was critical.

Hakl said he had no resentment and that Večer still thought that a merger made sense business-wise and that it would be a smart decision for the survival of both newspapers, "but in a professionally appropriate way".

The Maribor-based Večer, controlled by the no. 1 publisher Delo until 2014 when it was sold to entrepreneurs Hakl and Sašo Todorovič due to anti-trust concerns, has a circulation of about 19,000, according to 2019 data, and a strong subscriber base in the north-east of the country, while Dnevnik has a circulation of 21,000 and is considered more a central Slovenian or Ljubljana-based paper.

28 Aug 2020, 09:07 AM

STA, 27 August 2020 - Representatives of Slovenian farmers have made an urgent appeal to the government to intervene in the market since some purchase prices are so low they do not even cover the cost of production.

Purchase prices have been declining for many years but "the situation has never been so bad before," Anton Medved, the president of the Trade Union of Slovenian Farmers, told the press on Thursday.

"Value added tax amounts for a higher proportion of the price of a loaf of bread than the money the farmer gets for his wheat," he said.

The union wants the government to reintroduce monitoring of retail prices of food on store shelves and establish fair relations in the food supply chain.

They also want the introduction of mass balances, a system whereby inputs and outputs are measured based on origin.

Medved said prices had declined by 15-30% since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. "In the long term, this means ruin."

Listing the reasons why the government should intervene, Medved said Slovenian farmers will never be able to produce vegetables as cheaply as large Italian or Spanish farms, which he said were exploiting workers.

As things currently stand, Slovenian farms are being abandoned. "When young farmers see that farming no longer pays off, they will stop farming," he said.

26 Aug 2020, 10:39 AM

STA, 25 August 2020 - Net profit at port operator Luka Koper declined by 40% year-on-year to EUR 15 million in the first six months of 2020, as net revenue was down 11% to EUR 107 million. All cargo categories were affected by the slowdown in trade, shows the company's interim report released on Tuesday.

Pre-tax profit (EBIT), at EUR 17 million, was down 42% compared to the same period last year and profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) dropped by 29% to EUR 31 million.

While the crucial container segment fared reasonably well, declining by 4% in tonnage and TEU terms, sharp declines in throughput were recorded in other cargo categories.

Dry and bulk cargoes were down by 26%, liquid cargoes by 14%, cars by 18% and general cargoes, which account for the smallest share of overall cargo volumes, by 32%.

Total transshipment, expressed in tonnes, declined by 15% to 10.1 million tonnes.

The figures show the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on world trade, but North Adriatic ports were actually not among the worst affected, the company said.

In the container segment, Koper and the neighbouring ports were not confronted with shipping line cancellations that the northern European ports had to face.

In the car segment, Koper even overtook both Spanish ports which are comparable to Koper in terms of cars volumes, CEO Dimitrij Zadel was quoted as saying.

Zadel said it was difficult to predict the end-year figures but the company was "taking measures to ensure access to a sufficient amount of liquid assets to overcome these impacts".

24 Aug 2020, 11:21 AM

STA, 22 August 2020 - The gap between the minimum and average wages in Slovenia stood at 50.6% in 2019, which made the country the EU member state with the narrowest gap, data from Slovenia's Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (IMAD) shows.

Since Slovenia introduced the minimum wage in 1995, legislation has been amended on several occasions changing the manner in which the minimum wage is set or raised.

In 1995-1997, it was generally harmonised in the same manner as the base pay in the private sector.

In the following period until 2003, a mechanism was introduced basing its increase not only on inflation but also on GDP growth in real terms.

In 2004-2005, the minimum wage was set in a nominal sum, and rose more than the average pay in the private sector but less than if pegged to GDP growth in real terms.

The anticipated inflation was meanwhile the only indicator to which the minimum wage was pegged in 2006-2009.

In 2010-2018, the minimum wage was pegged to inflation from the previous year, whereas pay and employment trends, and the general economic situation could also be taken into account.

Under the 2018 changes to the minimum wage law, the amount set as the minimum cost of living will also be taken into account in setting the minimum wage as of 2021.

Over the past 25 years there have been two major minimum wage raises, which have brought the minimum wage closer to the average salary.

The first kicked in in 2010, when it rose from EUR 593 gross to EUR 734, but companies allowed to complete the transition until the end of 2011.

The changes from 2018 brought the other major increase, to EUR 887 gross for 2019 and to EUR 940 for 2020.

Also, as of this year, all bonuses, for instance for night shifts or Sunday work, were excluded from the minimum wage.

They are now calculated not as part of the minimum wages but separately, which further raised the monthly pay of workers on the minimum wage.

As of next year, a new formula will kick in under which the minimum wage will have to exceeded the minimum cost of living by at least 20%, but not by more than 40%.

All these changes have resulted in a narrowing gap between the minimum and average wages; in 2000, the gap stood at 40.3%, at 45.4% in 2010 and at 50.6% last year.

What is more, minimum wage growth has exceeded productivity growth throughout the last decade.

Slovenia is one of 21 EU members states which have the minimum wage regulated in a law.

The ratio between the highest and lowest minimum wages in the EU-21 is roughly 1:7, or 1:3 if measured in purchasing power standards.

Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in nominal terms and in purchasing power standards, with Bulgaria and Latvia at the bottom of the list, respectively.

In terms of purchasing power standards, Romania has seen the highest rise in the minimum wage in the past ten years.

Together with Portugal, Greece, Malta and Spain, Slovenia places in the middle group in terms of minimum wage growth. Last year, the minimum wage in the group ranged from EUR 700 to 1,050.

The ratio between minimum and average gross wages in the EU members which are also OECD members meanwhile ranged from 33.1% to 52%.

Here Slovenia topped the list with 50.6% in 2019, followed by France, while Greece had the widest gap to the average pay, IMAD said in its latest analysis of the minimum wage.

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