BUSINESS

On the verge of privatisation, things are getting tense at Oltchim

Nine workers go on hunger strike. Radu Olaru, a former economic manager in the team led by Constantin Roibu, was appointed yesterday as the new general manager of the chemical plant.

Over 300 employees of Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea once again rallied in the street yesterday, unhappy with being without work for the last two weeks, despite the government’s promise to secure orders for the chemical works. Moreover, they also demand the resignation of trade union leader Mihai Diculoiu, whom they accuse of no longer representing their interests. Nine employees announced that they will go on hunger strike. “This is a protest against this trade union leader which we no longer want. We also demand the government to secure a transparent privatisation, so we keep our jobs, and this is what we will discuss today (Wednesday) with new manager Radu Olaru, the interim successor of Mr. Constantin Roibu,” a protester said. On the other hand, Mihai Diculoiu said that he will not resign under the pressure put by “a minority group of employees.” “I cannot accept a resignation under the pressure of a minority group of employees. I said it before and I’m saying it again. I will not resign,” the leader of the Oltchim trade union, Mihai Diculoiu stated.The former deputy general manager of Oltchim, Nicolae Radu Olaru, who resigned last week with the entire top management team of the plant, was temporarily appointed as general manager, according to the chief of the Office of State Ownership and Privatisation in Industry (OPSPI), Remus Vulpescu. A meeting between the crisis committee and the new general manager of the plant, Radu Olaru ended with the decision of meeting each Friday to seek solutions to pay the overdue salaries of employees. Vulpescu explained that Oltchim will soon pay the salaries for July, but still has no money for August. The chemical plant must pay its employees monthly salaries worth EUR 3 M, according to the head of OPSPI.OPSPI sold 13 task-books for the privatisation of Oltchim Ramnicu-Valcea, mostly to foreign companies, and the banks that credited the company in the past are willing to support the privatisation. “Yesterday alone (Tuesday), we sold three task-books for Oltchim and in total we sold more than 10. (…) Another positive evolution is that banks by no means declined their availability to contribute. Banks understand the situation of Oltchim in a wider framework. They say they are willing – together with the Ministry of Economy – to help the resuming of operations in Oltchim,” the OPSPI official added.Two weeks ago, the government changed the privatisation strategy of Oltchim, to a collective sale of the shares held by the state in the company (54.6 pc) and of the claims held by the State Assets Resolution Authority (AVAS) and Electrica SA, worth RON 1.8 bln or 56 pc of the company’s debts. The price offers submitted by the investors interested to buy the plant will be opened on September 18, and the open outcry auction will be held the same day. “One of Oltchim’s problems – and the most urgent – is to resume operations, because no due-diligence can be conducted for an industrial company that is not operational. Now, we try to secure the integral payment of salaries for July, which I think we will succeed. Oltchim has an executive management that is operational,” Vulpescu added.In his turn, the minister of Economy informed the premier, during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, tat 12 companies so far purchased the task-book for the privatisation of Oltchim, but Ponta warned him not to say this loud on the microphone, because he wants to keep “things neat and clear” and save the jobs.Protests at Oltchim started last week, when the company decided to definitively stop its operations, after a warning that Electrica Furnizare will stop providing electricity to the plant on September 15. Under the agreement with the IMF, Oltchim will be privatised on September 18.

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