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Cargo still stuck in sidings

MEANWHILE, the state has already delivered a major financial injection to the state-run rail freight company, which has been badly hit by the global economic crisis. Cargo Slovakia recently announced that reduced production in several industrial sectors means its January 2009 revenues were €16.6 million less than the figure for January last year.

MEANWHILE, the state has already delivered a major financial injection to the state-run rail freight company, which has been badly hit by the global economic crisis. Cargo Slovakia recently announced that reduced production in several industrial sectors means its January 2009 revenues were €16.6 million less than the figure for January last year.

Cargo Slovakia has already received €165.970 million of public funds, in the form of refundable state assistance which should be repaid by 2019, Cargo Slovakia spokesperson Margaréta Grecová confirmed to The Slovak Spectator.

The company will use the state assistance to cover the obligations and expenses of the company, Grecová said.

“The most significant of these are personnel obligations and obligations linked to the use of railway routes,” Grecová said.

Meanwhile, local media reported that Cargo employees will take forced leave in late April and during the first week in May, and that beginning next month their working week will be cut to four days, according to SITA.

After six months of negotiation, Cargo Slovakia recently agreed with nine trade union bodies representing Cargo workers on the text of a collective agreement for 2009. As a result, wages will remain at 2008 levels, said Grecová.

According to Grecová, the unions agreed with measures including revised company holiday rules and pay reduced to 70 percent of normal levels during reduced working weeks.

“The company’s priority remains to preserve employment and the living standard of its employees, together with labour productivity,” Grecová concluded.

However, Transport Minister Ľubomír Vážny said that the financial assistance does not mean that the money will go to people “who just sit and stare at the sky”.

Vážny said that Cargo cannot be liquidated as it would never get back on its feet again.

“We are seeking other ways of using Cargo employees,” said Vážny as quoted by SITA. “One solution is that employees will be ordered to take leave in line with the Labour Code.”

The ministry ordered Cargo to seek solutions in order to avoid a situation in which people are paid but have no work.

As for Cargo, Ivan Štefanec, an MP for the largest parliamentary opposition party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), said that the government has made significant strategic mistakes in thwarting the company’s planned privatisation. Instead of the inflow of funds from privatisation, and resulting modernisation, Cargo is now a black hole into which the government is pouring money that will never be returned, he added.

“On top of that the government is meaninglessly supporting the construction of a wide-gauge railway line [linking Ukraine and Austria, via Slovakia], which in a way will be a competitor to Cargo, and which it is simultaneously funding,” Štefanec said.

His SDKÚ party supports changes that have an immediate effect and benefit all, Štefanec added.
“Such measures are cuts to direct taxes, the reduction of payroll taxes, changes to labour legislation and, last but not least, an end to the waste of public funds,” he said.

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