Government to extend support scheme for firms

Jana Maláčová (Foto: Michaela Danelová, Archiv des Tschechischen Rundfunks)

The Czech government is likely to extend a programme aimed at supporting companies hit by the coronavirus crisis either by two months or until the end of the year, the minister of labour and social affairs, Jana Maláčová, said on a TV debate show on Sunday.

The Antivirus programme – which is intended to reduce redundancies – has been running from mid-March and was due to come to a halt at the end of this month. Employers and trade unions have been lobbying for it to keep going but some economists say the scheme ought to be wound down as soon as possible.

The Social Democrats’ Ms. Maláčová also said on Czech Television that kurzarbeit – under which the state pays part of an under-utilised worker’s salary to ensure their employer keeps them on – could be introduced in the New Year. The mechanism is also known as short-time work.

The minister said the tripartite (government, employers and unions) were in agreement on introducing kurzarbeit and the matter would be discussed with ANO cabinet colleagues: Finance Minister Alena Schillerová and Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček.

Ms. Maláčová said the Antivirus programme – which she referred to as the government’s most effective tool against the present crisis – could only be in place for a limited time and needed to be well targeted. She said it had been effective but could not carry on indefinitely.

The minister of finance said she supported extending parts of the Antivirus programme pertaining to companies forced to close their doors by Covid-19.

Ms. Schillerová said backing for firms whose production was impacted by a temporary lack of raw materials, staff or demand would be up for discussion. However, she would not support an extension of the waiving of social contributions.

An extension to Antivirus must be discussed by lower house at an extraordinary meeting under what is known as legislative emergency, as similar matters have been before.