Pavel Juříček, the general director and owner of the company Brano Group, which has almost 2,500 employees, has started paying himself a minimum wage because of the current economic situation.

Trade unions praise Juříček’s step and hope that others may follow suit. “Yes, I can confirm this information, he made the decision at a staff meeting last week,” said Pavel Juříček’s assistant, adding that her boss was at a meeting and would be available later that day.

The fifty-one-year-old man, who won the prestigious title Entrepreneur of 2006 for directing a company with more than a billion of authorised capital, will start receiving a gross wage of CZK 8,000 a month.

Will others follow suit?

Trade unions also confirmed the information that the firm’s owner will start receiving a minimum wage. “In the case of Mr Juříček two things came together,” Chairman of the trade union KOVO Josef Středula said.

“As a chairman of the board and the firm’s owner he realizes what’s happening. I don’t want to advise anybody to get paid a minimum wage, but Mr Juříček’s step is an important signal for employees that the crisis will not affect only people at the lowest level. He sets an example worth following, which will renew trust in the company in the hard times. Unfortunately, he has been the only one in his decision, and other Czech managers will probably continue taking bonuses like before,” the trade union leader says.

Juříček has led Brano for 13 years. As a minority owner he had to first fight for the company at investment funds that were in his opinion rather draining money of the company. Since then the firm has increased its revenues ten times, built a network of its factories in the Czech Republic and bought companies in Germany and Russia.

However, Brano is now a typical “victim” of the fall of demand for new cars among subcontractors. It supplies the biggest car makers for example with handbrakes, pedal mechanisms or door-closing systems. Nevertheless, the company’s revenues fell by 30% last year and all its employees had to take forced vacation from 22 December till 5 January.

Car makers in crisis

Since then, probably all Škoda Auto’s subcontractors have been affected by the crisis and newly also Hyundai. According to the Automotive industry association (SAP), up to 30% of companies dependent on the automobile industry may not survive the current difficulties.

In the global context, similar steps are not unusual in connection with the crisis. As the magazine Ekonom pointed out, the outgoing heads of the British banks RBS and HBOS gave up their “golden parachutes” last year. Fred Goodwin and Andy Hornby rejected a bonus of GBP 1.2 million and almost GBP 1 million, respectively. Both of them because of troubles the banks were experiencing because of the financial crisis. The managers of the Holland bank ING also refused to accept bonuses last October.

The French government has said it would help its car makers under the condition their heads give up their bonuses.