COVID-19 & Slovenia, Night 20 March: Shorter Opening Hours, Power Prices Cut, Liabilities Deferral, Volunteer for the Army

By , 20 Mar 2020, 21:22 PM Politics
Together, 2020 Together, 2020 © Igor Andjelić

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We can’t have pictures of COVID-19 every day. So instead we’ll try and show the works of Slovenian artists. Today it’s Igor Andjelić, taking a break from the city. I recommend you follow him on Facebook for more beauty in your feed.

All our stories on coronavirus are here, while those covering covid-19 and Croatia are here. We'll have an update at the end of the day, and if you want newsflashes then we'll post those on Facebook

Contents

Govt shortens opening hours of grocery stores

Companies responding to coronavirus crisis differently

Power prices for households and SMEs cut by 20%

Banks say liabilities deferral act flawed and unclear

Armed Forces inviting volunteers to join

Govt shortens opening hours of grocery stores

STA, 20 March 2020 - The government adopted changes to a decree on shops on Friday shortening the opening hours of grocery stores by pushing the closing time from 8pm to 6pm, as demanded by the trade union of shop assistants. The restrictions do not apply for smaller retailers.

Under the changed decree with which the government closed all other shops bar grocery stores, shops will be open at least from 8am to 6pm.

Exempt from this rule are micro and small companies, the self-employed and cooperatives. These will be able to set their opening hours themselves based on their resources.

The government said after today's correspondence session that the purpose of the legal restrictions on opening hours was to minimise contacts among buyers.

The new rules will apply as of midnight.

In line with the government decree, grocery stores, but not pharmacies and petrol stations, are closed on Sundays and bank holidays during the coronavirus outbreak. The time slot between 8am and 10am is reserved for vulnerable groups such as the disabled, pensioners and pregnant women.

The trade union of shop assistants was critical of the original opening hours for shops yesterday, demanding the closing time be pushed to 6pm. It threatened with a strike unless its demand is met within 24 hours.

Longer opening hours mean that shop assistants are exposed to the risk of a coronavirus infection for longer, and work overtime, the union said, adding that many shops, especially the small ones, also struggle with the lack of staff.

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Companies responding to coronavirus crisis differently

STA, 20 March 2020 - Slovenian companies are dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus epidemic in various ways. Some are closing shop temporarily, while others, mostly part of global production networks, try to persevere amid supply disruption and ramped up safety measures.

 The Chinese-owned household appliances maker Hisense Gorenje announced on Friday it would close all its European plants between 23 March and 5 April in the light of the coronavirus spread worsening across Europe, quoting preventive reasons.

The company said that the measure would be imposed despite sufficient amounts of protective gear as well as raw materials to help curb the spread and protect its employees' health.

The management and in-house trade union have agreed that the production would be re-launched on 6 April, unless the situation and measures escalate and limit operations in the meantime.

The step was announced only two days after Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek offered Hisense Gorenje as a good example in organising work in such a way as to protect their staff's health and remain operative despite the epidemic.

Prior to the Gorenje announcement, several other large companies decided to close shop, including household appliance maker BSH Hišni Aparati, sports equipment manufacturer Elan, footwear manufacturer Alpina, the Magna Steyr paint shop and car maker Revoz.

Meanwhile, some Slovenian companies that are part of global production networks cannot suspend production without the implementation of national or EU measures. All of them have reported they have stepped up preventive measures though to protect their staff.

"Despite the pandemic the company is obliged to meet contractual obligations to our customers," said the TPV group, adding that the company would be otherwise faced with contractual penalties and loss of future business.

The car industry supplier employs some 1,200 workers and is present in Slovenia, Serbia, the US and China.

Meanwhile, Dewesoft, a provider of data acquisition systems, testing and measuring instruments used in satellite and rocket development, continues with operations and has introduced boosted safety measures drawn up on the basis of China's experience and insight in dealing with the epidemic.

Dewesoft employs more than 200 people and has subsidiaries in 16 countries, including China.

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Power prices for households and SMEs cut by 20%

STA, 20 March 2020 - To ease the impact of the coronavirus fallout, the government issued a decree reducing electricity prices for households and small businesses by about 20% for the next three months.

"We've joined forces to come up with a solution that will alleviate concerns at least a bit at these difficult times," Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said as he announced the decision on Twitter.

In a release posted on its website following a correspondence session on Friday, the government said it had issued a decree suspending payment of contributions for subsidies for high-efficiency cogeneration and renewables for small business consumers and households.

The suspension, valid between 1 March and 31 May, is estimated to reduce electricity bills for the two types of consumers by about 20%.

The decision comes after parliament passed in the wee hours on Friday the first legislative package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy.

Apart from subsidised pay for temporarily laid-off workers, business will also benefit from a lifting of some administrative burdens, and a deferral of debt and tax payments.

One act gives the government complete discretion in the use of budget funds approved for purposes not deemed part of legally binding tasks, and another allows it to intervene in food markets.

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Banks say liabilities deferral act flawed and unclear

STA, 20 March 2020 - Banks have responded to the emergency act that allows companies to ask for a deferral of their liabilities by 12 months by arguing the legislation, which is not yet in force, is poorly thought out.

The banks and savings banks said they had already started adjusting their arrangements with affected clients in the face of the coronavirus crisis prior to the act's adoption last night and that they welcomed efforts to reduce the pressure on companies.

The banks for instance redirected as much operations as possible to web or mobile platforms. The act would thus need to provide for bank procedures to be executed fully electronically and without the physical presence of the client, the Bank Association of Slovenia wrote.

Moreover, the act fails to provide for the deferred loans being factored out of the presently strict capital requirements for banks, which means the ability of banks to fulfil their basic task - securing fresh financing - can be compromised, since new provisions will have to be formed.

The association also believes that the manner in which the act is to be implemented is unclear and expects explanations before it enters into force.

It called on all key stakeholders to engage in dialogue and for changes to systemic provisions, noting it was worth keeping in mind that companies and individuals would also need new loans.

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Armed Forces inviting volunteers to join

STA, 20 March 2020 - Following Thursday's announcement by Prime Minister Janez Janša that the Slovenian army would be expanded with volunteers, the government issued on Friday a call that says the Armed Forces are inviting all who wish to help in these difficult times to sign up as volunteers or for temporary military service.

The call, published on the government's website, says the Armed Forces are asking citizens to help reduce the heavy burden the security system is carrying in the face of coronavirus. It is urgent that the contract reserve be expanded, it reads.

Citizens aged between 18 and 50 or up to 60 are eligible. They must not have a criminal record and must consent to a security screening.

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