Tripartite: Goal of Special Levy Bill Is Right, Not Its Tools

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Labour Minister Jan Richter (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, November 5 (TASR) – Regarding the bill on introducing a special levy for retail chains, the social partners (the Government, employers and unions) agreed on the goal of the bill as such, but failed to agree on the measures that should lead to achieving this aim, TASR learnt on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference after a session of the Economic and Social Council, Labour Minister Jan Richter (Smer-SD) said that he doesn’t know whether or not there is a consensus on the bill among the coalition.

“We [social partners] have agreed on something at least. We have agreed that the latest trend in terms of food costs cannot continue any longer. The average food costs in the EU-28 reach 11.1 percent, in Slovakia it’s 16.5 percent. In terms of competitiveness, all V4 countries [the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia] enjoy better results than Slovakia … Therefore, it is important to hold a discussion in this regard in order to look for ways … to stop food prices hikes, prevent merchants’ margins from rising and find a consensus between primary producers and merchants. All this should be beneficial to the people, as the current trend is totally unfavourable,” said Richter.

Slovak Trade Union Confederation (KOZ) vice-president Monika Uhlerova stated that the trade union has one fundamental remark on the special levy. “From the trade union perspective, we worry that the special levy will be reflected in [hikes in] food prices and, eventually, it will have a negative impact on consumers and households,” said Uhlerova, noting that the basic objective of the bill is correct, as the measures that support Slovak primary producers, processors and Slovak food suppliers should be adopted.

According to Association of Employer’s Unions (AZZZ) vice-president Rastislav Machunka, the employers welcome the fact that a social discussion concerning the relations between suppliers and merchants in the food sector has been opened up.

The bill in question drawn up by the junior governing party SNS was approved at its first reading in Parliament and should come into force as of next year. According to SNS, the special levy for retail chains amounting to 2.5 percent of their net turnover should ensure funds for Slovak farmers and food producers.