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Companies adapting to new reality, unions want govt restrictions

Ljubljana, 16 March - Companies in Slovenia are adapting to life in the country and beyond almost grinding to a halt. Some have closed shop, while some have adopted safety measures but continue with operations. To the dismay of trade unions, the latter category also includes providers of non-essential products who cannot secure safety.

Novo Mesto
Renault's Slovenian car assembly plant Revoz.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Slovenia's largest exporter, Renault's Novo Mesto-based assembly plant Revoz continued with the morning shift normally today. While it has some problems with supply, Revoz said the biggest issue was getting enough workers to work in the face of the public transportation shutdown.

The company, which has a 3,400-strong workforce, said it had introduced a number of safety measures and was expanding them. Workers are for instance required to keep a distance, the lunch serving period has been extended, meetings, training and business trips mostly cancelled.

The Chinese-owned household appliance maker Gorenje is also continuing with normal production, albeit with extensive security measure in place, including thermovision cameras. Around 200 workers, about 5% of the workforce, stayed home, mostly to provide childcare.

Hauliers are also feeling the crisis, but Luka Slokar of Slo-car has for instance told the STA that 40 of its 45 truck drivers are currently on the road. All have been provided with protective equipment and are currently able to cross borders, albeit more slowly than usually.

Things are running at full steam at Mlinotest, the Ajdovščina-based bread and pasta company, although a part of the production staff has been sent home to be ready to step in in case those currently working fall ill and thus at least secure the production of basic foods, such as flour and bread. Supply routes remain stable.

Aluminium producers, such as Talum and Impol, are also continuing with production. A case of coronovirus infection has been reported at Talum and everybody potentially affected has been isolated. The company, stressing its production is of systemic importance, has limited operations to the minimum to preserve essential output.

Work is continuing normally at Škofja Loka-based Knauf Insulation, the Slovenian subsidiary of the multinational Knauf. Part of the workforce is working from home, while various measures were introduced for the rest to avoid close contact.

Production has been suspended for a week at shoe maker Alpina, but the company plans to start operating again in a limited fashion next week. Director Jernej Osterman said adjustments would be made and that health remained a high priority. He acknowledged that close contact could not be avoided in production.

On the other hand, a number of major companies have halted production, among them household appliance maker BSH Hišni Aparati and sports equipment manufacturer Elan.

Meanwhile, upset that not all companies and sectors that are not essential in the crisis have stopped or limited production in a way that would provide safety, the ZSSS trade union confederation called on the government today to force them to do so.

"Workers, in particular those who do not see any rational reason to continue going to work, are scared, conflicted, they feel inferior, devalued. They feel the state and employers are exposing them to danger, that all that is constantly preached in the media does not apply to them," ZSSS head Lidija Jerkič wrote.

"The message that they understand it that all the words notwithstanding, capital is put before people. As always," Jerkič added.

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© STA, 2020