Business

25 May 2020, 11:24 AM

STA, 24 May 2020 - Telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije is to set up a test network featuring 5G technology at port operator Luka Koper to explore development options and test various logistics solutions. The project is co-financed from Horizon 2020, the EU's key 2014-2020 research and innovation multi-billion fund.

The 5G infrastructure is planned to offer not only communication services but also a number of virtual networks intended for individual business verticals, such as logistics, transport, health, energy, production facilities, smart cities and communities, Telekom Slovenije has announced.

Luka Koper will use the latest-generation wireless technology to test safety solutions as well as for process optimisation and environmental protection.

Since it enables faster transfer of larger quantities of data, the new technology should help improve control of safety and transshipment.

It should also facilitate electricity consumption control in a bid to improve energy efficiency.

Similar solutions are also to be tested in the German and Greek ports of Hamburg and Piraeus, respectively.

The Luka Koper-Telekom Slovenije project is part of 5G-Loginnov, a EU's development project focusing on 5G mobile technology to bring innovative solutions in logistics.

5G-Loginnov is co-financed by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme and brings together 15 partners from several European countries.

Among the Slovenian partners are Luka Koper, Telekom Slovenije and the Internet Institute from Ljubljana.

The 15 5G-Loginnov partners will invest almost EUR 8 million in the three-year project, to be completed in September 2023, with the EU contributing another EUR 6 million.

Both Telekom Slovenije and Luka Koper are also involved in other European 5G technology projects.

25 May 2020, 11:21 AM

STA, 24 May 2020 - Bia Separations, a biotechnology company based in Ajdovščina, is to expand its production facilities in Ajdovščina and Italy's Gorizia. The company's investment plans to launch production in the US have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, however Bia Separations will go ahead with them as soon as possible.

The company, a world leader in the development of purification processes for biologics, in particular for gene therapy, will expand its production due to increased demand.

The European Medicines Agency has recently recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for a gene therapy medication used to treat spinal muscular atrophy. Helping produce the medication, Bia Separations will have to step up its production capacities.

Related: Biotech Firm Bia Separations Biotech Expands in Slovenia, US & Canada

Moreover, a major investment project planned for the US, the company's main market, will be realised as quickly as possible, Aleš Štrancar, Bia Separations CEO, has told the STA.

The investment has been delayed for at least a few months due to extreme circumstances and air travel restrictions, however there is still plenty of time for its realisation since a production facility in the US is planned to be completed by the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, efforts to expand production in Ajdovščina are underway.

"When one of the projects aiming to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is green-lit, the company will most probably have to quickly increase its production capacities," said Štrancar, adding that Ajdovščina was an ideal place to enable such a swift expansion.

Most of Bia Separations's customers come from the US and they strive to secure the potential vaccine for US citizens first. The company is part of quite a few such efforts and estimates that at least one of them will be successful.

Moreover, the company is cooperating with a couple of European partners taking part in the race to find the vaccine and is also part of a Slovenian effort.

An investment project in Gorizia has been launched as well with construction works expected to start next year. The company's new programme is to be developed there.

Bia Separations currently helps eight companies with developing the coronavirus vaccine. The company provides purification processes for potential vaccines or medications and assistance in setting up production lines, but it does not actually work on developing vaccines or medications, said Štrancar.

22 May 2020, 13:47 PM

STA, 22 May 2020 - The energy group Petrol saw its sales revenue drop by 15% year on year to EUR 916 million in the first quarter, due to lower prices and a drop in the sale of petroleum products. Still, net profit of the group was up 20% to EUR 21.8 million, shows a report published on the website of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange.

Gross profit stood at EUR 105.3 million, which is on a par with the first three months of 2019.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were up 26% to EUR 46.5 million, mostly due to the balancing out of petroleum product price quotes, as diesel price quotes for the coming months at the beginning of the year were twice as high as at the end of March.

Excluding this effect, EBITDA for the period would be up just 2% to EUR 37.9 million, shows the report that was discussed by the supervisory board on Thursday.

"In March, the business environment deteriorated considerably as the pandemic began. Petrol Group companies ... have implemented the necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus and ensure uninterrupted energy-product supply," the group says, noting that no disruption in the energy-product supply had occurred though, and all points of sale had been operational.

The group generated 47% of its EBITDA through sales of petroleum products, 21% through sales of merchandise and related services, 18% through energy and environmental solutions, 12% through the sale of other energy products (natural gas, electricity, LPG), and 2% through renewable electricity production.

In the first three months of 2020, sales of petroleum products were down by 18% to 742,900 tonnes, mostly due to lower sales to the Agency for Commodity Reserves.

Some 43% of sales were generated on the Slovenian market, 24% in SE Europe, and 33% in EU markets.

At the end of March, the Petrol group's retail network consisted of 509 service stations, of which 318 were in Slovenia, 109 in Croatia, 42 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 15 in Serbia, 15 in Montenegro and ten in Kosovo.

Sales revenue of merchandise and related services were down by 35% to EUR 127 million in the January-March period, and the sales of natural gas was up 15% to 6.4 TWh.

Because of the epidemic, the group's targets for 2020 will not be met and Petrol has prepared different scenarios for its operations until the end of the year, depending on the severity of the crisis.

If certain restrictions on transit traffic and tourism still remain in place in the next few months, it expects this to have a major impact on its operations in the summer months. The group is also preparing for the possibility of major restrictions on movement to be introduced again in the final quarter.

The group thus expects the sale of petroleum products to reach 83-86% of the 2019 figure. EBITDA for 2020 could amount to 73-79% of the 2019 figure.

Before the pandemic, Petrol's plans for this year included sales revenue of EUR 6.4 billion, EBITDA of EUR 214.8 million and EUR 109.8 million in net profit. It also planned to sell 3.4 million tonnes of petroleum products.

Investments will be limited to the most essential this year and the management will make decisions on this based on the pandemic-related developments.

The group will focus on cost optimisation and streamlining of operations until the end of the year, while securing uninterrupted energy-product supply.

The supervisory board assessed that the management had responded to the pandemic appropriately and has the situation under control.

An AGM has been scheduled for 23 July.

21 May 2020, 10:36 AM

STA, 20 May 2020 - The government adopted on Wednesday a new economic stimulus package, featuring subsidies for shortened working time, vouchers for citizens to be spent in tourism facilities around the country, and favourable liquidity loans. The package is worth around one billion euros.

Subsidies will be available to employers who cannot secure at least 90% of the usual workload for at least 10% of their employees and that the state would subsidise up to 20 hours weekly.

For workers on 20-hour weeks, the subsidy will amount to EUR 449, for 15 hours EUR 336, for ten EUR 224 and for five EUR 112.

Workers on the minimum wage will not receive the full minimum wage if they do not work full time, Kralj said, arguing a distinction needed to be preserved among those working full- and short-time.

The measure will be in place until 31 December and will be financed from the European Social Fund and the European Commission's SURE mechanism.

The stimulus package also includes an estimated EUR 345 million worth of vouchers to be spent in Slovenian tourism facilities. All Slovenian citizens will be eligible for vouchers, which will be available as of 1 June.

Related: Slovenia to Spend €345m on Tourism Vouchers for All

Minors will get EUR 50 vouchers and adults EUR 200 vouchers in electronic form, which may be used to pay for accommodation and breakfast in hotels, apartment complexes, camps, agritourism farms and other similar facilities.

The measure, valid until 31 December, will cost the state EUR 345 million, but visitors who cash in their vouchers are expected to spend an additional EUR 172 million for services they will not be able to cover with vouchers.

Also adopted is an extension of subsidies for temporary lay-offs only for certain industries. Companies in the tourism and hospitality industries whose estimated drop in revenue is more than 10% compared to 2019 will be eligible.

The new package also serves as legal basis for notification of state aid under the EU rules, based on which the Economy Ministry will draft a financial incentive programme intended for tourism and border problem areas.

In order to boost liquidity of companies, state-owned funds will provide EUR 40 million-worth of favourable liquidity loans for around 900 micro and small companies.

21 May 2020, 10:33 AM

STA, 21 May 2020 - Slovenia's pharma group Krka Group saw its net sales revenue increase by 22% year-on-year to EUR 462.9 million in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic pushed up the demand for its products. Net profit rose by 21% to EUR 85.2 million.

The unaudited interim report for the first quarter released by Krka on Thursday shows the operating profit rising by as much as of 85% year-on-year to EUR 133.9 million, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increasing by 62% to EUR 162 million.

The group generated 95% of sales outside Slovenia, with East Europe, its biggest market, accounting for 33.2% of overall sales. The region also saw the highest sales growth in absolute terms, increasing by EUR 31 million to EUR 153.1 million, chiefly owing to growth in Russia and Ukraine.

In its second biggest market, Central Europe, Krka generated EUR 113.7 million or 24.6% of its overall sales, followed by South East Europe, at EUR 63.8 million (13.8%), and overseas markets, at EUR 13.5 million (2.9%).

Sales at home, at EUR 23.3 million, accounted for 5.1% of the overall sales. Prescription drugs accounted for EUR 10.8 million as their sales rose by 12% year-on-year.

The group allocated EUR 14.9 million for investment, of which EUR 9.8 million in the controlling company.

As of the end of March, the group had 11,622 regular employees, employing a total of 12,791 people along with agency workers. This is 21 more than at the end of 2019. This year the company plans to increase its headcount by 3%.

The core company, which employs 5,898, generated EUR 434.9 million in sales in January-March period, one third up year-on-year. Operating profit nearly doubled to EUR 126.2 million and EBITDA rose by 74% to EUR 147 million as net profit increased by 28% to EUR 65.4 million.

The company said the sales growth was partly affected by an increased demand for Krka products as a result of the novel coronavirus. "Towards the end of the first quarter, the demand slowed down and is currently at the planned and anticipated level."

Considering the unpredictability of the pandemic and its aftermath, the Krka management said it continued to carefully monitor the developments in the countries they operate in.

The group sales revenue for 2020 is projected at EUR 1.52 billion, of which 94% is to be generated in foreign markets. The profit target for the year is EUR 210 million, while EUR 134 million is to be allocated for investment this year.

18 May 2020, 11:08 AM

May 18, 2020 - From a small family business of one 35m2 store in 1990 to among the London Stock Exchange's 50 most innovative companies in Europe. Meet Tokic Croatia. 

Did you know that last year Peter Altmaier, the German Minister of Economy and Energy visited a Croatian automotive company to learn about innovative techniques in an industry where Germany is a global leader? And that the company was not Rimac?

There is a saying that Croatians can forgive you anything but success. It is one of the reasons why many Croatian success stories are under the radar, why so many people are negative about the business climate here and choose to emigrate. TCN recently decided to start focusing on telling some of those success stories to show that there are many Croatian companies which are doing incredible things on the European and world stage. And the more we tell those stories, the more emails and invitations we get to meet another Croatian success story.

And even though I always like to see the positives in things, I was beyond dubious when I accepted my latest invitation to visit a company which was so agile and innovative that German ministers were coming to pay homage.

A company selling car parts? Based in Sesvete, in eastern Zagreb? Really?

Tokic Croatia is a name I know well – it is impossible not to if you drive a car in Croatia. They are the biggest name in car parts, and I had never given Tokic Croatia a second thought until the invitation to visit their head office in Sesvete. I went more out of politeness – how could there be anything interesting about a company selling car parts?

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Oh, boy, how wrong could I be?

It didn't take me long to realise that I was in a very special environment, one which was light years away from the typical Croatian business mindset, and one which was not actually selling car parts as its primary focus, as the VERY charismatic and amiable CEO Ivan Gadze explained to me in a sentence:

“We are not selling car parts, we are building up people.”

So revolutionary is the approach of Tokic Croatia that when a Croatian portal did a feature on them back in 2016, it was under a headline which went something like – Is it Google or Facebook – no, Tokic. London or New York? No Sesvete.

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I am getting ahead of myself, so let's go back to the beginning. The year is 1990, and two brothers open a 35m2 retail outlet in Zagreb selling car parts. Things go well, and they expand. By 2000, there are 10 outlet stores in Zagreb, by 2014, over 100 in Croatia via a franchise model. In 2008, Tokic Croatia became a member and shareholder of ATR International AG in Germany. The company, although very successful, is still very traditional in an ever-changing world.

And then things changed.

The two founding brothers decided to step back and bring in professionals to work on the expansion and longterm sustainability of the company. Rarely for a family business, that decision meant an agreement that they abided by – to let the new management run things completely without family interference. Both brothers are part of the supervisory board, but the company is completely run by Gadze and his management team.

The decision was taken to build an innovative and agile company which invested heavily in human capital and kept itself at the forefront of new technology. A company which was open, innovative and inclusive, something very rare in Croatia, especially in a family company.

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A new logistics centre, a gigantic 24,000 m2, was located in Sesvete (by way of comparison, IKEA Zagreb is 38,000 m2), and a new logistics operation began in 2016.

This included the moving of an incredible 1.1 million cases to the new location in 11 days by 140 people, without the supply chain of deliveries from suppliers and to customers being remotely interrupted. It was an incredible achievement, as Gadze explains in the video above, and one which is permanently recorded on the warehouse wall.

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(The Hall of Fame of the incredible logistical move in 2016)

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Where to start with the innovations? Perhaps with one of the reasons that the German minister visited. Tokic Croatia prides itself on its agility and innovation, and perhaps the best example of that is the fact that it became the first to implement robot technology from Gideon Brothers. 

It was a perfect example of the Tokic agility. Gideon Brothers had a great concept but no implementing partner and they were talking to various companies. The two companies met on a Friday, signed a contract the following Monday and the first pilot started a month later.

It introduced the first concept shop for automotive spare parts in the region, something which did not even exist in Austria. Queueing machines are common in banks, but not in this industry, another introduction. In fact, quality control is in evidence wherever you walk in the Tokic offices – there are monitors in the sales department monitoring the length of time it takes to answer a call, and the percentage of missed calls. And the overwhelming desire from all I met was the desire to improve and do better.

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This is a company aiming for perfection, and I smiled internally when I asked about the delivery time from the concept store to the customer, as the sales assistant needed to go into that massive warehouse to find the part. While the delivery time is still very quick, it is not quick enough for the Tokic ethos, and I could tell that it troubled my guide, while knowing that a solution would not be far away.

The investment in human capital is everywhere to see. The Kaizen programme (the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement), two trained staff in MBTI, the biggest global psychometric test or model for measuring the preferences of people. The T1 Walk internal education academy, with over 1 million euro invested. The Tokic Education Centre (TEC) is offered in association with the German Chamber of Crafts in Dortmund, a qualification which is therefore applicable in Germany and the wider EU.

People, people, people. Develop the human capital and the company will look after itself. And the results speak for themselves. In an era where Croatian companies complain that they cannot find quality staff, Tokic Croatia is finding that the opposite is true, and the best of the best are coming to them from the competition, and even returning from places like the UK.

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Walking around the very open and bright offices, it is not hard to see why. This is a company which started as a family business with two brothers, but which has grown into a much bigger family, bonded not by blood, but by company ethos, respect, diligence, transparency and a passion for improvement. Part of the reason might also be that the company is located in Sesvete, which not only has the highest population growth in Zagreb, but also apparently in the whole country.

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As we toured the office, we stopped to chat to some random employees about their experiences working at Tokic Croatia. Apart from the VERY relaxed office culture, it was their passion and ideas which left their mark, with one telling me about his sleepless night trying to fix a robotics programme.

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There are complaints procedures, as well as the chance to bring suggestions. Each department has a board on the wall where such things can be discussed and dealt with. I looked at several such boards on my walk around. Each had a box for Suggestions and one for Resolved. All the suggestions boxes were empty, dealt with and resolved as they came in.

Although Tokic Croatia is active in 14 countries, its core operations currently are in Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Austria, and in those markets, it offers a quite extraordinary guarantee. Order your parts by 18:00 and it will be delivered the next day. Tokic is open to business east of Croatia (and has a partner in both Macedonia and Montenegro), but it sees itself very much as a European player of German quality serving the European market. They believe they have the product, the people and the know how, as well as that innovation and agility, to compete.

And so do others.

The London Stock Exchange chose Tokic Croatia as one of 13 European companies for its ELITE programme. Only this November, Tokic was listed in the illustrious LSE Future Shapers group of companies. And as one of 35 members of the 29 billion euro ATR International AG group, Tokic is one of the most visited companies by the other shareholders.

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Walking around the offices is an uplifting and relaxing experience, and as far removed from any stereotype of a car parts company as you can imagine. Open plan, glass, but bright coloured chairs in chill zones, table football to take the stress away, even a book exchange library (where I was amused to note that the smallest section was called 'Automotive'). And everywhere there were smiles, dedication, purpose.

The culture of inclusion extends to lifestyle and partying, and Gadze told us how hospitality is one of the things for which Tokic Croatia is known. The company hosts about 12 big parties each year, the biggest this year being at their Expo in October, where 4,000 people partied into the night. But it is not just partying, sport is a major part of teambuilding. The Tokic racing team has 15 drivers, there is a football cup with 24 teams (all employees), a strong presence in the Advent in Zagreb run, table tennis, cycling, the list goes on.

And corporate and social responsibility.

The Tokic approach to education includes giving back to the community. They have, for example, a loyalty programme for mechanics, where 1 kuna in every 100 kuna is donated to a vocational school in Velika Gorica. And while they have little interest in professional sports, Tokic Croatia actively sponsors kids and sports. This includes the Christmas Cup in Dubrava, where the top teams in Europe bring their under-13 teams to compete in Zagreb. Luka Doncic was one past competitor.

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And what of the future for the company? The aim is to become a relevant Central European company in terms of size and revenue, to build the brand and trust in that brand, to keep at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. Telematics is one key area of future interest, as too is predictive maintenance, something which Tokic is already involved in with predictive analytics but not yet monetising.

Two hours just flew by, and the world of Croatian car parts was transformed before my very eyes.

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So just because Croatian companies do not always talk about their success, it does not mean that success is not happening. Quite the contrary, in fact, and while a visit to Tokic may be about a simple purchase of car parts on one level, that huge investment in human capital means the sale is taking place in one of the top 50 most innovative companies in Europe.

17 May 2020, 10:34 AM

STA, 16 May 2020 - Revenue from VAT in March, when most shops closed as Slovenia went into lockdown on 16 March, dropped to EUR 187 million, down nearly 30% over February and 19% over March 2019, the latest data from the Financial Administration (FURS) showed.

Almost EUR 705 million in VAT was meanwhile collected in January and February, up 4.8% from the same period last year.

The majority of shops, except groceries, pharmacies and petrol stations, closed in the middle of the March after the coronavirus epidemic was declared.

Eurostat statistics realased earlier this month showed the entire EU retail sector was severely affected by lockdown in March at monthly and annual levels.

Slovenia's posted an annual drop in sales of 15.1%, the second steepest fall in the entire EU, behind France (-16%), which compares to the average EU drop of 8.2%.

At the monthly level, Slovenia's drop in retail sales hit 13.5%.

Shops have been gradually reopening since mid-March, with all allowed to reopen on Monday, 18 May.

Nevertheless, analysts do not expect consumption to pick up anytime soon.

Slovenia's domestic consumption increased by 2.7% in 2019, but the government's macroeconomic forecaster, IMAD, expects it to drop by 3.1% this year and a further 0.4% in 2021.

15 May 2020, 13:08 PM

STA, 14 May 2020 - NLB generated EUR 18.3 million in net profit at group level in the first quarter, a 68% year-on-year decrease that Slovenia's largest bank said was the result of credit impairments and provisions formed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Net interest income decreased by 3% to EUR 77.4 million, "mainly due to higher interest expenses resulting from new Tier 2 instruments issued by the bank, which was partly compensated for by increased loan volumes", says NLB's business report published on Thursday.

Net fee and commission income increased 6% to EUR 42.4 million, in particular in the retail segment in banking members on the markets of SE Europe. In the second half of March, net fee and commission income dropped due to the outbreak of Covid-19, especially in card operations, the bank said.

In the first quarter the NLB Group set aside impairments and provisions totalling EUR 28.3 million, which compares to EUR 0.6 million in the same period last year. Additional credit impairments and provisions in the amount of EUR 24.5 million were recognized in the first quarter due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Gross loans to customers amounted to EUR 8.13 billion, which is 2% more than at the end of last year. Deposits from customers increased moderately, the bank said.

Gross loan to households remained level while gross loans to companies increased by 5% compared to the end of 2019. Lending restrictions introduced by Banka Slovenije in November 2019 and the coronavirus outbreak reduced new loans to households while demand increased for working capital at companies, NLB said.

The bank said it holds a very strong liquidity position, at the group and individual subsidiary bank level. The total capital ratio for the group stood at 18.5%, which "represents a solid basis to cover all regulatory requirements... also in the aggravated circumstances during COVID-19 pandemic".

Credit portfolio quality did not deteriorate, with the share of non-performing loans remaining unchanged at 2.7%. The group "expects credit portfolio quality to worsen in 2020 through a downgrade of some clients, including the increase of non-performing loans as a result of the economic slowdown".

While the supervisory board also got acquainted with the results today, chairman Blaž Brodnjak assessed the crisis could also mean an opportunity.

"On the one hand, us being the largest banking and financial group headquartered in this region - the group which calls this region its home - means that people listen to us. And on the other hand, it might just give us an additional push towards making full use of our potential," said Brodnjak.

14 May 2020, 08:22 AM

STA, 13 May 2020 - Slovenia will see a major easing of quarantine restrictions on Monday. Tourism will reopen starting with smaller operations. All shops will be allowed to open, while bars and restaurants will be able to serve patrons indoors again, the government decided on Wednesday.

The entire tourism sector, hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 epidemic, will in effect be allowed to gradually reopen on Monday except for major providers.

Under the new government decree, the only facilities that must remain closed are accommodation facilities with over 30 rooms, accommodation for spa guests, wellness and fitness centres, pools and water parks.

The entire tourism industry has been shut down for two months in a bid to contain the epidemic and the decision made today is the first easing of restrictions in this sector.

All provider will have to abide by public health rules mandating a safe distance between guests and other safety precautions.

The decision to allow all stores to reopen will come as a relief in particular for large retailers, as smaller shops with up to 400 m2 of shopping area reopened last week.

Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen last week as well, but they could only serve patrons outside. And while most operations will now be allowed to fully reopen, the ban remains in place for night clubs.

The government has also decided to get rid of the requirements that common areas in apartment buildings must be disinfected twice per day, a measure that has proved highly unpopular. Disinfecting is no longer required as of tomorrow.

https://english.sta.si/2763316/govt-confirms-re-opening-of-kindergartens-schools-on-monday

13 May 2020, 12:00 PM

STA, 12 May 2020 - The Chamber of Small Business (Obrtno-podjetniška zbornica Slovenije - OZS) has drafted a set of proposals it wants included in the third coronavirus package of measures the government will start working on more intensively next week.

The OZS would like more liquidity aid for small companies and sole proprietors, and a lower VAT for services in tourism and some other lines of small business.

It would also like a solution to rent payment when a private business rents a place from a private owner after the government has recently helped those renting from the state.

The OZS would moreover like the government to ease layoff conditions, and introduce measures to kick-start the construction sector.

The third package of measures is to focus on tourism as the most severely affected industry. But the OZS believes some other industries should also be helped, such as coach transport, hospitality, tourist guides, event management, spas and wellness centres, as they have also been severely affected.

OZS president Branko Meh believes small and medium-sized companies are the backbone of the Slovenian economy, which is why it is so important to help them in time with the right measures.

"It is now time to include in the third anti-coronavirus package what we missed in the first two packages," he was quoted in Tuesday's press release.

12 May 2020, 20:33 PM

STA, 12 May 2020 - The opposition Left has drawn up a legislative motion in a bid to keep stores closed on Sundays even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic. Considering support expressed from both sides of the political isle and part of the public, the party hopes the bill can be passed by summer.

The Left drafted amendments to the trade act in response to a call by the Trade Union of Shop Assistants in its Labour Day message to keep stores closed on Sundays and public holidays beyond the epidemic.

Appearing at today's press conference of the Left, the union's secretary general Ladi Rožič said that hundreds of union members wanted Sundays to be a day off for retail workers as well.

He said it was sad that after almost 17 years since a referendum in which 58% of those who turned out backed a ban on Sunday store opening hours, the voters' will has still not been put into practice.

Several initiatives, legislative motions and changes to collective bargaining agreements followed to appease the workers, however, most recently the trade act was amended in 2008 to the effect that store opening hours are not restricted at all, aside from the general prescription that statutory worker rights and collective agreements be respected.

Echoing Rožič's arguments, Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said thousands of retail workers worked Sundays, losing out on quality of life because they could not spend their time with their families.

He urged all parties to endorse the bill, welcoming broad support signalled by PM Janez Janša on Twitter, Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, and most recently by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the largest opposition faction, which warned though that the ban should not serve as an excuse for layoffs.

Mesec also noted support from Christian religious communities and many trade unions and other organisations, arguing that the coronavirus epidemic showed that work and shopping habits were but a social agreement that could be changed and that having stores closed on Sundays did not dent the quality of life in any way.

Under the party's proposal retailers would no longer be allowed to set working time on Sundays and work-free days. An exception would be stores of up to 200 square metres located at service stations, airports, railway and bus stations or hospitals.

The Chamber of Commerce has warned that a ban on Sunday shopping would result in a loss of jobs, but Rožič said the retailers were severely understaffed, having to rely on agency, student and immigrant work forces, so he was not concerned the measure would lead to regular staff being made redundant.

Still, the chamber questioned the timing of the legislative proposal, which it said came "at extremely difficult times" when "all forces, skills and activities should be directed at forming measures to exit the crisis as a priority".

The chamber insists that changes to the opening hours will affect the size of the workforce in a sector that employs more than 110,000 people, almost 60,000 of them in retail alone.

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