Interview “Krone” – Kocher: “I really like this job until 2024”

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The employees are still looking for Martin Kocher – the Minister of Labor, who has now also been given the economic agenda, has only just moved to the new department.

“krone” You are considered the new super minister. what makes you great
Martin Kocher:
I have already said that I do not find the name quite appropriate because while the Ministry is large and presents great challenges, in the past there have been ministries of similar size and now there are ministries that deal with a similar number of issues . In this regard, the term super control is somewhat inappropriate.

And how big is it if the work of two female ministers is divided among almost all men?
That was certainly not the intention, there is also a state secretary. Right now we have more women than ever in government, but of course it’s always about the best possible gender balance. Now it has become so. I don’t know what other options there were.

What could be better than the outgoing Minister of Economic Affairs Margarete Schramböck?
I hope I can continue to position the location as they do. She has often been slammed in the media.

You recently presented, together with Margarete Schramböck, the reform of the red-white-red card, drawing the ire of the union, which was not involved. You always emphasize the good relationship with the social partners. How does that work?
We always have a very good, informal exchange. But there are projects with clear responsibilities, with the red-white-red card it was clear that the government was working on a proposal. This is now up for discussion, there is a review. I am very pragmatic and happy to accept criticism, but I don’t think a very different package would have come out of the previous major negotiations.

Speaking of the trade union and also the SPÖ: they have strongly criticized the merger of the Ministries of Labor and Economic Affairs. It is feared that the workers will be the victims. what is your answer?
First, I’m not on either side. I came into the government as an independent party, I do not come from an interest group. That means that I am the advocate for workers, job seekers, entrepreneurs and the self-employed. We will ensure the reconciliation of interests, we already had that in Austria. This is not uncommon and does not break a taboo.

You like to emphasize that you are not a member of the ÖVP. will it stay that way?
Party membership is not a problem.

But isn’t it the case that acting as an impartial expert is no longer enough with the increased area of ​​responsibility and influence?
I will try to keep working as factual and pragmatic as possible. It’s okay for me. How it is experienced from the outside I can only influence to a limited extent.

Pragmatically, how many times can you rebuild a government?
(laughs) Of course it was a time of a certain inconsistency, which is not quite optimal. But almost without delay, all bills were drafted. The content of the work was not affected by the personnel changes.

What priorities do you set as Minister of Economic Affairs?
There are the short term challenges like inflation and energy, there is a lot to do. We need to prepare for autumn, it is about storing gas and balancing inflation. In addition to cold career progression, I think a conversation about wage reduction and additional costs is very important. And then there are the long-term issues like research and development.

Keyword cold progression: Treasury Secretary Magnus Brunner has announced his abolition. Again, it must be said. The trained Austrian knows what that means.
The working group is quite high up, the chancellor, the finance minister and myself are there. I don’t think it’s all about getting rid of cold progression, it’s more about making sure it doesn’t hit so hard. There are different methods, the same applies to non-wage labor costs. There must be a total package.

But that sounded different for the Minister of Finance, who wants to put an end to the cold progression in 2023. But in your opinion shouldn’t there be automaticity for all tax levels?
You can imagine a lot, but technically there are many variants and it is not easy.

Subject of short-time working: how to proceed?
Here too it is important to differentiate. On the one hand, we need short-time working, which is now being extended until the end of the year, as a safety net. Considering the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there is still a lot to come. On the other hand, we are in the process of limiting access to short-time working and tightening the rules. Because some companies use short-time work to compensate for normal fluctuations in orders. The model is not made for that.

During our last conversation, I asked you whether you would bet on the continuation of the coalition. After some hesitation, you said you were ready to commit. What does it look like now?
Now I am even more convinced that we will make it to the end of the legislature.

However, with your right to return to university, life also becomes easier.
That’s a privilege. But I am also very happy to do this work until 2024.

But no further?
This is not planned.

Source: Krone

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