COVID-19 & Slovenia. Night 23 March: Protective Gear, Employment, Slovenians Abroad

By , 23 Mar 2020, 21:50 PM Politics
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Slovenia receives fresh shipment of protective gear

Employers with new proposals to mitigate impact of epidemics

A thousand Slovenians still looking to be repatriated

Slovenia receives fresh shipment of protective gear

STA, 23 March 2020 - Slovenia received on Monday another shipment of protective gear to be used during the coronavirus epidemic, according to a tweet by Defence Minister Matej Tonin.

The civil protection today received 125,000 surgical masks, 93,000 pairs of gloves, 856 Tyvek suits, 20,000 head covers and 2,550 shoe covers, Tonin said on Twitter, adding that another 1,000 FFP2 masks were on the way.

Tonin, whose ministry is in charge of distribution, did not say where the protective equipment had come from.

Jelko Kacin, the spokesman for the government crisis unit, refused to say at today' conference how much protective gear was still needed in Slovenia but he did note that the country was in need of many pieces of protective gear.

"The main problem continues to be logistics, or how to get this protective gear that is mainly produced in China to Europe, and from here to the end user," he said.

He said the public would be informed of any shipments once they reached the country.

Kacin also said that plans were being made for Slovenia to transport protective gear by air, at least around Europe.

He thanked all donors that are helping out in this crisis and called on all those who want to help to contact local civil protection units, reiterating that hospitals, community health centres and retirement homes would be the first to be supplied with protective gear.

Some 800,000 protective face masks arrived in Slovenia on Thursday and Friday, while all trace seems to be lost of the 1.5 million ordered masks which were supposed to arrive at Hamburg airport on Wednesday.

Like many other countries, Slovenia is also launching its own mask production. Boxmark Leather, the Kidričevo-based maker of car upholstery, intends to produce between 40,000 and 45,000 masks per week or some 5,000 to 8,000 per day, and the Celje-based Prevent&Deloza plans to soon make between 30,000 and 40,000 washable masks, first supplying critical services and then also selling them in shops.

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Employers with new proposals to mitigate impact of epidemics

STA, 23 March 2020 - Employer representatives proposed to the government further measures to mitigate the impact of the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus epidemic, including full coverage of sick leave in relation to the virus, partial pay compensation for workers who currently do not have work and financial injections for companies.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) has proposed that, in order to secure financial stability and liquidity, the obligation to pay taxes and social security contributions for March and April be written off.

The write-off rate would be 50% for companies who saw their turnover drop by more than 10%, and 100% for companies whose revenue dropped by more than 30%.

A 12-month moratorium would be in force for the payment of taxes and social security contributions for May, with the option of a 5% discount in case of immediate payment.

The chamber also proposes a EUR 1 billion capital injection in the SID Banka investment and development bank for loans to companies in 2020 and a guarantee scheme for all claims by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

On the labour market, the GZS proposes lay-offs without severance pay for the maximum of six months. These workers would get 80% of their wage, but not less than the minimum amount of the unemployment benefit.

The employer would commit to hiring back at least two-thirds of employees temporarily laid off in such a way under the same conditions, not later than six months after the lay-off.

The chamber furthermore proposes the option of a lay-off for the maximum of four months - employees would get 80% of their net wage, 20% of which would be covered by the employer, and the rest by the state.

During the temporary lay-off, the employee would have to be available to return to work for up to 16 hours a week.

Also proposed is that workers who are not able to work because they need to tend to small children get full compensation of their wages and that sick leave caused by the epidemic (including preventive self-isolation) is paid by the state.

In order to kick-start the economy when the time is right, the GZS proposes major public investment projects, preferably implemented by domestic companies, and a special programme for modernisation of public infrastructure.

Also proposed are incentives for private investments and a special programme for start-ups, promotion of venture capital funds, other measures for the financial market, and tax breaks for R&D and new investments, the chamber said in a release.

Additional proposals from the Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS) include full coverage by the state of the wage bill in companies for sole proprietors who have been banned from working or have no work due to the crisis situation.

Sole proprietors should also be exempt from paying taxes and social security contributions and get compensation for the period in which they are not able to perform their activity, it added.

The OZS said that employers should be allowed to unilaterally order part-time work or use of annual leave for 2020, and that if a worker is dismissed because of a drop in sales or orders, the state should cover severance pay.

Employers should also be allowed to retire workers who meet the conditions for retirement for the duration of the emergency situation.

While welcoming the financial measures prepared by the state bodies, the chamber said that the possibility of a 12-month deferral of credit obligations should also apply to leasing companies.

The OZS also said that the state should follow the German example and earmark one-off financial aid to micro and small companies.

The opposition Left meanwhile proposed today that wages of the lowest-paid workers "who have remained on the front line" - shop assistants, delivery personnel, and workers in manufacturing - should be doubled, with half of the increase to be covered by the state.

Left coordinator Luka Mesec told the STA the government had adopted last week "completely insufficient measures, missing out on a bunch of people who will be affected as the economy has slowed down."

These are, for example, precarious workers and self-employed, he said, adding that Slovenia would soon be able to use up to EUR 3 billion in aid from the European Central Bank (ECB) and that the state should help all.

"We will propose that all self-employed are exempt from paying social security contributions, that all who have been left without income and work get easier access to all forms of aid," he added.

The Tourism and Hospitality Chamber said that, in order to avoid mass lay-offs, the state should provide EUR 1,000 per worker in the tourism industry a month, or adopt amendments increasing the state's share in wage compensation from 40% to 80%.

The chamber also proposes liquidity-boosting measures in the form of grants, subsidies for lost revenue, write-offs of all social security contributions and taxes for all employees for this year, and of corporate income tax for 2019 and 2020.

On the labour market, it wants to see shortened work hours, aid to self-employed, partial coverage of wages for six months, and red tape cuts.

Prime Minister Janez Janša has announced that the government will discuss thing evening guidelines for a new emergency package. The guidelines include pay bonuses for workers in critical sectors, and aid to the self-employed.

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A thousand Slovenians still looking to be repatriated

STA, 23 March 2020 - More than 1,000 Slovenians are still looking to get home from other EU member states or third countries amid travel restrictions across the globe as a result of the escalating coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Anže Logar revealed following a videoconference with his EU counterparts.

The repatriation of more than 300,000 EU citizens who have expressed interest in returning home was one of the major topics of the first videoconference of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

Logar took the occasion to thank all the neighbouring countries with which Slovenia agreed joint corridors for transport of goods to destination markets across the borders despite restrictions in the past week. He also thanked fellow ministers of the countries helping with repatriation of Slovenian citizens.

Over the past week more than 300 Slovenians have been brought home safe and sound, and the ministry has been in touch with more than 400 helping them with information on their options to return to Slovenia.

More than 1,000 Slovenians who are still abroad have responded to the ministry's appeal to get in touch if they wished to return to their home country. About 500 are currently in the EU, most of them in the UK, with the rest dispersed across the globe, Logar said.

He repeated his call on all Slovenians abroad to get in touch with the consular service's crisis cell via the Foreign Ministry's website.

The ministry is organising repatriation from Warsaw, Prague, Brussels and Budapest, but Logar told reporters in Ljubljana that Slovenia would not organise additional flights from destinations where Slovenian citizens had declined to return on flights already organised.

Logar noted that EU member countries today had made a number of proposals to fight the consequences of coronavirus, including invoking the European solidarity clause. He said the idea shared was the need to tackle the shortage of needed medical and other equipment to combat the virus.

He said member countries were generally moving from measures to restrict movement in public spaces to measures to stimulate the economy and help the hardest-hit, a direction also taken by the Slovenian government, which is to have a preliminary discussion today on measures to contain the fallout from the pandemic.

Logar said the pandemic had shown the importance of defining critical infrastructure and services needed for a community to function in such a crisis. The EU will have to act fast to ensure urgent production and infrastructure so as not to depend again on certain markets or even a single market in the future.

EU foreign ministers have not taken any formal decisions as these cannot be taken in a non-formal videoconference but can only be taken in a written procedure.

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