THE AMENDMENT to the law on employment services, which became valid on May 1, includes changes that could markedly affect workplaces for disabled people which enjoy the support of the state. The revised legislation reduces the level of support which goes towards establishment of such sheltered workplaces, meaning that in practice they can apply for support but are not guaranteed to receive a subsidy.
The opposition and the sheltered workplaces are critical of the change and are warning that it might result in the liquidation of some facilities. The Ministry of Labour, which prepared the amendment, says that it will merely remove duplication of payments and reduce opportunities for abuse of state support.
The new rules could close as many as 50 percent of existing sheltered workplaces, according to Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) MP Erika Jurinová, speaking in late January 2013.
Jurinová added, as reported by the TASR newswire, that the amendment might mean that disabled people are “left to the arbitrary [decisions] of a committee”. Since the committees deciding on disbursement of state subsidies will be composed of regional deputies, Jurinová said there would be “space for cronyism and corruption”, TASR reported in late January.
Labour Ministry spokesperson Michal Stuška rejected such arguments, instead claiming that the amendment would not threaten the existence of the workplaces. According to him, the ministry discussed the changes with representatives of disabled people, especially on whether to make contributions paid to help establish a facility become discretionary rather than remaining obligatory. Though the two sides succeeded in agreeing on a majority of the proposals, this change was the only one on which they did not reach agreement, Stuška said.
“We still insist on the opinion that it is impossible and not right to have the legal duty of the state [to be] that anybody who decides to establish a sheltered workroom or workplace will automatically receive the full subsidy for its establishment, regardless of the circumstances,” Stuška told The Slovak Spectator.
He added that it is necessary to have a process in which somebody assesses whether the body which wants to establish the workplace is prepared and has a clear idea how the facility will operate in a legal sense as well as in a competitive environment.
Stuška said that the state’s contribution towards the ongoing operational costs of sheltered workplaces would remain obligatory.
Another disputed area is the amount by which the state will fund the establishment of sheltered workrooms or workplaces. According to Stuška, the contribution was decreased in order to remove duplicate payments that he said they receive via the contribution for the establishment of the facility as well as for its operation.
Since wages are operational costs, and not initial investments, the ministry removed the entitlement to claim for money on wages from the contribution for the establishment of a sheltered workplace, and left it only in the second type of the subsidy. The contribution on establishing the sheltered workplace decreased by only 50 percent, Stuška explained.
However, Katarína Dekánková, head of the Association of Organisations of Disabled People in Slovakia (AOZPO SR), said the amendment will result in more complicated and slower establishment of sheltered workplaces, while existing sites will have to undergo new approval procedures. She added that she regards the change in the category of contributions for sheltered workplaces, the establishment of committees and the decrease in the sums being contributed as negative changes resulting from the amendment.
“In the end it [means] the restriction of access of disabled people to employment, and perhaps also the extinction of existing sheltered workplaces,” Dekánková told The Slovak Spectator.
Stuška explained that the changes, as well as the amendment, “do not have the consolidation character [i.e. are not money-saving measures]; conversely, they should increase the real effect of measures of the active labour market policy”.
The spokesperson stated that in recent years the subsidies paid for each job in a sheltered workplace have increased by more than 2.5 times.
He added that there was no reason for such an increase, and that the ministry would like to support more disabled people more effectively with the same amount of money. He stressed that this did not mean that it wanted to abolish sheltered workplaces.
20. May 2013 at 0:00 | Radka Minarechová