People are more frugal with their own money than that of other people. This is a maxim that applies everywhere in the world, regardless of a country’s political system or culture. The Slovenian energy industry knows damn well that nothing will happen to them if they do bad business – they will even get paid for it. They also know very well that they are not gambling with their own money, but with the taxpayers’ money.
As the newspaper Finance has recently reported, employees of the Slovenian Power Plants Holding (Holding Slovenskih elektrarn – HSE), which was rescued by the state in December with a recapitalisation of 500 million euros, were paid a 980-euro bonus each for their business performance after receiving the financial aid from the state. The company has defended itself by claiming that the performance bonus was paid for 2021, not for last year, just before the end of 2022.
“In the HSE Group companies, performance bonuses are paid in December, partly for the previous year and partly for the current year, in accordance with the collective agreements. On the basis of an agreement with the trade unions, only part of the performance for the previous year, 2021, was paid at the end of December 2022 in the amount of 980 euros, while the social dialogue on the payment of the remaining part for 2021 and 2022, which is based on the collective agreements concluded, is still ongoing,” the Slovenian Power Plants Holding explained.
Performance bonuses for 2021, but also 2022
In 2021, the year for which the performance bonuses were paid, the HSE Group (Drava, Soča hydroelectric power plants, Thermoelectric power plant Šoštanj and Coal Mine Velenje) made a profit of 47 million euros, but at the same time had a balance sheet or carried-forward loss of almost 400 million euros.
But the same collective agreement that the company is referring to will also ensure that performance bonuses will be paid for the financial year 2022, because the agreement is written in such a way that performance bonuses are paid even when the company is not performing well, or even when it has to be bailed out by the taxpayers.
Funded by the taxpayers
It should be pointed out that the HSE Group, which is classified by the government as a strategic investment, produces more than 60 percent of Slovenia’s electricity and, as such, is key to ensuring a reliable electricity supply in the country. In December last year, the Republic of Slovenia (read: with taxpayers’ money) paid the first of the two tranches of funding needed to bridge the HSE Group’s liquidity shortfall in the form of a subsequent capital injection of 300 million euros, and the second tranche of 192 million euros was paid by the 15th of December 2022, following the approval by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia of an amendment to the Annual Management Plan. In October, Tomaž Štokelj, a personal friend of Prime Minister Robert Golob, who was also his best man, took over the management of the company.
It is not known why the collective agreement with the trade unions is written in such a way that performance bonuses are paid even when the company is not performing well. We have, however, addressed a question to the state-owned company HSE about this dilemma. The very definition of good performance is that the company made a profit in the previous year, and thus, the workers receive a share of that profit. If there is no profit, but they still pay out performance bonuses, by definition, the bonus is being paid by the taxpayers, or in other words, we are paying out a kind of social welfare to the lucky employees, which is also being drawn from the money that the Golob government stole from us with the new Income Tax Act.
What is also significant is that we are still paying one of the highest prices for electricity in Slovenia. This seems like some kind of a social programme to take care of employees in state-owned companies, which will obviously cost the unfortunate mortals in the private sector dearly.