Workers Protest in Romania Over Unpaid Wages

Angry employees of the Oltchim chemical company rallied in Bucharest demanding payment of their overdue wages and urging the government to step in and save the plant.Around 1,000 workers at Romania’s ailing Oltchim plant staged a protest on Tuesday in front of the government building in Bucharest, demonstrating against unpaid salaries and the company’s plans to cut jobs.

“I am desperate as I got no money since January. We are calling on the government to find a solution to restart activity at the plant,” one protester said.

Protesters said no employee should be dismissed and urged the government to borrow around 45 million euro in order to restart activity at the chemical plant.

The government, which is the majority shareholder in Oltchim, said it is trying to find a solution. “We will pay all the remaining money as soon as possible, but, unfortunately, job cuts are necessary,” a government representative said.

Media reports previously said that around 1,100 jobs at Oltchim would have to be cut, around a third of the total workforce.

Oltchim’s units are currently operating at less than 10 per cent capacity, and production at the site has been severely restricted for more than a year as a result of a lack of working capital to secure feedstock supplies.

Since end of March, there have been several demonstrations at Oltchim by employees protesting over unpaid salaries.

The government decided on 23 January to begin insolvency procedures in order to pave the way for the company’s future privatisation, as a way out of the group’s economic problems.

Analysts say it will be difficult for the government to privatise Oltchim in the current circumstances “The situation at the company it is tough. Economic data shows Oltchim has debts of around 800 million euro, and needs a further 200 million euro to become profitable. It is difficult in such conditions to find an investor,” economic analyst Mircea Modan said.

The state holds a 54.8-per-cent stake in Oltchim. In recent months, the centre-left government has been pushing forward with a privatisation timetable for the disposal of its majority stake as part of a commitment to economic restructuring carried out in consultation with the IMF.

The government cancelled the privatisation of Oltchim on 1 October, saying that the journalist-turned-businessman, Dan Diaconescu, had not provided any documents to prove he had the money to buy the majority stake that he had won.

On September 21, Diaconescu offered 203 million lei (45 million euro) for a majority stake in the firm. Ten days later, the government cancelled the bid after Diaconescu failed to hand over the money.

After the failed privatization, Romania did not set a new privatization term for the company.

Based at Ramnicu Valcea, in southern Romania, Oltchim produces caustic soda, petrochemicals, agrochemicals, inorganic products and building materials.

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