Bus drivers’ minimum wage to rise 18 pct in 3 years

Following a year of negotiations, the Estonian Transport and Road Workers Trade Union (ETTA) and the Union of Estonian Automobile Enterprises arrived at a a sectoral agreement that will raise bus drivers’ minimum monthly income by 18 percent to 945 euros in three years.

Under the agreement concluded, bus drivers’ minimum monthly income and hourly wage, respectively, will increase to 835 and 3.50 euros next year, 895 and 3.75 euros in 2018, up to 945 and four euros in 2019.

ETTA’s initial demand was for bus drivers’ minimum monthly income to be increased from 800 to 900 euros immediately.

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40 km of Tallinn-Tartu highway to be widened to four lanes

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, work on widening Tallinn-Tartu Highway to four lanes between the villages of Kose and Mäo is underway and construction work will begin next summer.

The project plan is currently being prepared for a 25-kilometer stretch of the new road from Kose to Võõbu. When the plan is completed, a procurement tender to find the builder will be announced, likely sometime during the first half of next year. Construction on the project is expected to start during the second half of the year.

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Eesti Energia considers building new oil plant if oil prices rise further

Energy firm Eesti Energia is proposing building a second Enefit280 shale oil refinery if the price of crude oil on the world market reaches 60-65 dollars per barrel, said Chairman of the Board Hando Sutter.

Brent crude oil is currently priced at less than 50 dollars per gallon, reported ETV’s news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.”

According to Sutter, Eesti Energia’s three existing oil refineries are already working at full capacity; every hour, more than 60 tons, or one tank car’s worth, of oil is produced, the majority of which is exported.

“We are developing our technology in such a way that new investments would be possible if the price of oil were in the range of 60-65 dollars per barrel,” explained Sutter. “As [oil prices are] a bit below 50 dollars per barrel today, we are a bit short, but if oil prices should rise, then we are prepared to offer our owners new investments upon which to decide.”

Source: ERR News

Parliament was given an overview of state-owned airline Nordica

The Riigikogu’s Economic Affairs Committee was given an overview of the financial situation of state-owned airline Nordica on Tuesday. Committee member MP Erki Savisaar said on Wednesday that he was satisfied with what he had heard.

According to Erki Savisaar, the load factor of Estonia’s new state airline’s various routes has been comparable to that of competing airlines at over 70 percent, and so there was no problem in that regard.

The number of delayed and canceled flights, which was cause for concern during the spring, has also decreased, although according to the MP, there was still room for improvement. “At the same time, however, if you compare [today’s situation] to that with where they were in the spring, the situation has greatly improved,” Savisaar told ERR’s online news portal, who found that the primary factor involved in this improvement was Nordica’s switch to its own crews and fleet of planes.

Savisaar said that half of the money granted to the airline by the state had been spent by now, however if the business manages to stay on track and reach current profit by 2019, the company’s being in the red this year will not be a problem.

“What was said was so lovely that I want to believe,” said Savisaar. “They cannot be given any additional money for the next nine years, according to EU rules, so if such losses should continue as at present, then they will not hold out for long.”

Nordica has announced that they will not publish their economic results before the end of their first year of operation, however they are keeping within budget. First-year losses are projected to come in at 15 million euros.

Source: ERR News

Taxify launches service in Kiev

Estonian transportation network company Taxify launched their taxi and ridesharing service in Kiev on Friday, which means that the mobile app is serving customers in a total of 21 cities in 14 countries.

While over three million people live in Kiev, a city five times bigger than the Estonian capital of Tallinn, more than 90 percent of customers still order their taxis from dispatch centers, reported Taxify in a press release. Of the over 20,000 taxis in the country, whose quality varies wildly, approximately 200, including drivers offering rideshares, had joined forces with the Estonian-based company by the time of its launch in the Ukrainian capital.

All drivers working for Taxify have undergone a thorough background check and training on Taxify’s part.

“Ukraine is a very large market and we had been weighing expansion to there for some time already,” explained Taxify co-founder Martin Villig. “This is an interesting challenge for Taxify as locl taxis [in Kiev] mostly drive according to a fixed negotiated price and not with taxi meters, as is common elsewhere in Europe.

Taxify is an Estonian startup launched in 2013 which is working on developing a worldwide app for taxis and ridesharing worldwide. Employing over 50 people worldwide, Taxify offers services in 21 cities across 14 different countries.

Taxify mediates millions of trips per year in Europe and Africa, and has invested two million euros in order to finance rapid growth, making it the most effectively operating mobile application in the world.

Source: ERR News

Narva taxi drivers given until next summer to improve Estonian skills

Under pressure from the Language Inspectorate, Narva’s nearly 200 taxi drivers must all improve their Estonian language proficiency to a B1, or threshold or intermediate, level by next summer.

Language Inspectorate Director Ilmar Tomusk told ERR’s Russian-language online news portal that of all the taxi drivers working in Narva, only a few dozen currently speak Estonian at the required level.

Accorrding to Tomusk, taxi service providers Ida Takso, Ton Märts, Sõprade Takso, Narva Takso and Gold Takso all submitted language proficiency certificates for their employees.

“A total of 145 people work for these companies whose Estonian language skills did not meet the required level of proficiency,” said Tomusk, adding that out of an additional 64 self-employed drivers, 62 did not meet the required level of proficiency.

According to the online news portal’s information, taxi drivers thought that after the language proficiency requirement was removed from the Public Transport Act in the spring, they would not have to learn Estonian anymore, however according to Tomusk, this is not the case.

“The majority of taxi service-offering businesses reported that taxi drivers were either learning Estonian or waiting for free language classes,” noted Tomusk. “With regards to self-employed drivers, they reported that they are involved in providing taxi services in such small volumes and do not have the money for learning a language, which is why they are likewise waiting for free courses.”

Tomusk noted, however, that there were no plans to place sanctions on taxi drivers refusing to learn the language, although the inspectorate reserves the right to give taxi drivers warnings and fine taxi companies.

According to Integration and Migration Foundation Our People (MISA) and University of Tartu Narva College director Kristina Kallas, the drivers will not be receiving free Estonian language lessons this year.

“The money for free courses has already been distributed for this year,” said Kallas. “6,000 people were given this opportunity who had been waiting for it for a long time already, however there are no taxi drivers among them.”

She noted that as the Language Inspectorate is subject to the Ministry of Education and Research, the money for free courses should come from them specifically.

“Neither taxi drivers nor the Language Inspectorate have approached MISA regarding this issue,” Kallas confirmed.

Source: ERR News

St. Peter Line to sell cruise ships operating on Baltic Sea

Russian shipping company St. Peter Line, which operates a Tallinn-St. Petersburg route with a fleet of two ships, the Princess Anastasia and the Princess Maria, is to sell the ships to Italian cruise ship operator Moby Lines, reported lemarin.fr.

According to initial information, the new owner is to relocate the Princess Anastasia away from the Baltic Sea, while thePrincess Maria is scheduled to continue operating cruises in the region, Port of Tallinn Chief of Communications Sirle Arro told BNS.

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Unemployment insurance premiums to remain unchanged until 2020

The government decided on Thursday to leave the rate of unemployment insurance premiums at the current level of 2.4% for the coming four years.

The premium of 2.4% is made up of a contribution of the insured person amounting to 1.6%, and a contribution of the employer, amounting to 0.8% of the employee’s gross pay.

According to an estimate of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, a combined rate of 2.4% means that premiums collected will total €166.8m next year, €178m in 2018, €189m in 2019, and €200m in 2020.

One of the reasons for the decision not to change the premiums is the Work Ability Allowance Act that entered into force this year. This law states that a person’s ability to work is to be assessed and the work ability allowance granted and paid by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund using only unemployment insurance funds. This means that the availability of sufficient funds has to be guaranteed, otherwise the work of the Unemployment Insurance Fund to cover its targets wouldn’t be sustainable.

Unemployment insurance is compulsory in Estonia. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (Töötukassa) has the task to provide labor market services, pay labor market benefits, and pay unemployment insurance benefits to those looking for a new job.

The fund also has the task to help employees in the case of lay-offs, as well as to support employees’ claims upon the insolvency of their employer.

Source: ERR News

Postimees to stop publishing Russian-language papers

Estonian publisher Postimees Grupp announced on Thursday that it will give up the print version of the Russian-language edition of Postimees as well as the Russian-language weekly Den za Dnyom. Instead, it will focus on developing Russian-language news portals.

“The number of subscriptions and readers of all Russian-language newspapers published in Estonia has been in decline in recent years. At the same time the number of readers of Russian-language online publications has increased substantially,” CEO of Postimees Grupp, Peep Kala, said.

The group will focus on developing Russian-language news portals rus.postimees.ee, limon.ee, and krasotka.ee.

“The trend where readers as well as advertisers are moving online is developing quickly in Estonia’s Russian-language media, and therefore we will contribute more to developing Russian-language news portals,” Kala said.

“We want to thank everybody who ever contributed to publishing the print edition of Estonia’s oldest Russian-language newspaper, and all those who have been its faithful readers. We would like to invite everyone to read news in Russian on our Russian-language portals,” he added.

AS Postimees Grupp is part of Eesti Meedia, the Baltic’s biggest media group. It publishes Postimees, regional newspapers Tartu Postimees, Pärnu Postimees, Sakala, Virumaa Teataja, Järva Teataja, and Valgamaalane, as well as Maa Elu, the magazine “60+” and the digital magazine “30+”.

The Baltic News Service (BNS) also belongs to Eesti Meedia.

Source: ERR News

Head of Estonian tax authority to begin working in Nortal

Marek Helm, current director general of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA), will be joining the software and business consultancy company Nortal as director of the company’s public finance and change management team in mid-January 2017.

According to Nortal founder and CEO Priit Alamäe, Helm has carried out extensive reforms and necessary transformations in one of the most important public authorities in Estonia for which there is strong demand globally. “Effective tax collection and transparent public finance management is becoming more relevant globally,” said Alamäe in a press release. “By uniting Helm’s experience with our knowledge and references, we are creating an international center of competence and export capability while preserving a recognized leader for Estonia.”

Helm said that he has worked in the public sector for over 20 years and feels that the time has come to put himself to the test in the private sector. “Nortal is a company with growing ambition and international scope that exports Estonian e-government success stories,” said Helm. 2I’m glad that with my expertise and experience I can contribute to the company’s continuous expansion to export markets that are of great importance to Estonia.”

The MTA’s current director general noted that he would be handing over the management of the state authority to his successor with peace of mind. “This is a fantastic organization and a professional close-knit team that serves the Estonian society and is a great partner for taxpayers,” Helm said.

“During the past few years, Nortal has made significant investments to develop internationally recognized competence in the field of complex e-government reforms,” explained Nortal’s CEO. “Our aim is to address a client’s needs as a whole by offering holistic service concepts that include everything from legislative drafting, organization and process re-design to the implementation of new technologies and change management. Marek Helm’s long-term experience in public sector reforms and creating more effective processes, where knowledge-based and well thought through change management plays an important role, fits perfectly with Nortal’s plans and strategy.”

Helm has led the MTA as director general from December 2011. Prior to that position, he was deputy secretary general for public governance policy at the Ministry of Finance from 2009-2011, led the founding of the joint internal security office under the Ministry of the Interior from 2007-2009, deputy secretary general for internal security of the Ministry of the Interior from 2006-2007 and director of the Ministry of the Interior’s Internal Security Department in 2006. From 2004-2006, Helm held the position of deputy director general of the MTA and in 2003-2004, deputy director general of the Customs Board in the customs enforcement and pre-trial investigation fields.

Nortal is an international strategy consultancy and software solutions company focusing on e-governance, health care, telecommunications, production and logistics. It operates in nearly 20 countries and employs 530 specialists. Nortal posted sales revenue of 45 million euros in 2015.

Source: ERR News