Workers at Romania’s Oltchim in protest over unpaid wages

26 September 2012 15:19  [Source: ICIS news]

BUCHAREST (ICIS)--Hundreds of Oltchim’s workers staged a protest on Wednesday at the Romania-based chemical producer’s site in Ramnicu Valcea, demonstrating against unpaid salaries and a halt in production due to a lack of working capital.

“We get no money for almost two months. Furthermore, we are asking the government to find a solution for Oltchim as soon as possible,” one protester said, according to private television station Digi TV.

The government is currently holding talks with businessman and media owner Dan Diaconescu, who won a privatisation auction for the majority stake in Oltchim.

Diaconescu now legally has the remainder of the 10 days following the 21 September auction to produce New Lei 203m (€45m) which he bid for the state's 54.8% stake in Oltchim.

In a statement, Diaconescu claimed he had not signed the privatisation contract and paid over the purchase capital for Oltchim because the contract has “missing clauses, provisions and addenda”.

“I’ve asked the government to pay the due salaries for Oltchim employees, to establish an actual way of taking over Oltchim’s raw material supplier Arpechim, and guaranteeing that none of the lenders will ask for Oltchim’s insolvency after takeover,” Diaconescu said on Wednesday.

On Monday, Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, said that Diaconescu does not have the money to buy the firm.

“We pledged to [the International Monetary Fund under economic restructuring agreements to] have a privatisation in September, the fact that it has failed is not our fault,” Ponta said at the time.

The Romanian Cabinet was set to discuss a plan for state-management of Oltchim for the next six months in the event that the privatisation did not produce a viable winner, the prime minister said.

The prime minister has stated that if this privatisation fails, the government plans to next year run a new privatisation based on an entirely different concept.

In July, debt-laden Oltchim was placed into special administration.

Production at Oltchim has been severely restricted for more than a year, with the company unable to source enough working capital to secure feedstock supplies.

Since early September, there have been sporadic protests at Oltchim by employees among the 3,500-strong workforce who fear a privatisation of the company will lead to hundreds of job cuts.    

Oltchim's main products are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyols, dioctyl phthalate (DOP) and caustic soda.

Additional reporting by Will Conroy

(€1 = New Lei 4.51)

By: Marian Chiriac
+44 20 8652 3214

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