Is Belje Purchasing Meggle and Keeping 70% of Employees in Osijek?

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Nikola Patkovic writes on the 21st of October, 2020, milk processing and production in Osijek will not be shut down on December the 31st, 2020. Instead, the Osijek milk factory, currently called Meggle, will start operating in the system of the Fortenova Group on the first day of the new year, under the name of their company Belje Plus, which will buy the Osijek factory.

Thus, the crisis, which occurred three months ago when the German Meggle announced that it was ending its production in Osijek and Croatia at the end of this year, will still have a happy epilogue, because the factory will not close, and the ”victims” of the decision will eventually be minimal. Although neither Fortenova, ie Belje, nor Meggle want to officially confirm that an agreement has been reached, according to unofficial information, the “ironing out” of the last details is currently in progress, but the majority of the agreement has been reached. Belje will thus keep up to 70 percent of Meggle’s 160 workers and continue processing and milk production in the Eastern city of Osijek, some workers will probably retire early, and some of them will be offered jobs in one of the other business units by Belje. Additionally, they plan to take over all subcontractors who want to continue working with them, and there are 282 of them.

The agreement

”The agreement is nearing its end and the last details are being agreed on. It’s also important that Meggle keeps its promise that it will keep hold of all of its workers until the end of the year and pay them their salaries, and after that it will pay them the agreed severance pay,” a person familiar with the negotiations between Belje and Meggle revealed.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of the fact that Meggle’s announcement that it is leaving Osijek and Croatia caused a big shock in Slavonia, which is already economically devastated and for which the closing of the factory with 160 jobs would be an additional blow/ Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Ivan Anusic was especially fierce at the time, saying that he was ready to initiate various types of pressure on Meggle because of such a decision. However, high-level meetings followed in the following days, in which the Croatian Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, joined in, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic supported finding a solution that would preserve the 71-year tradition of Osijek’s dairy industry. Anusic announced a few weeks ago that the end of negotiations on the takeover of Meggle was in sight.

”Talks with Meggle are over. Meggle is leaving, but 65 to 75 percent of workers will stay working. We’ll take care of the other workers. Production will continue in Meggle’s plants, and the details should be reported to the public by those who led the negotiations,” said Anusic two weeks ago on HRT’s Otvoreno/Open show. Even now, he didn’t want to go into details until the company itself announces them.

Meggle responded to an inquiry by saying that they “have made great efforts to ensure a positive outcome of the talks with several potentially interested companies. The negotiations are at a very high stage, but without the consent of other parties and given the obligation of confidentiality, we can’t give you more information “.

Dukat also showed interest in buying Meggle, and the owner of Zito, Marko Pipunic, once said that he was interested, but there were no negotiations on the matter. When it comes to the workers, it is known that the unions have agreed with Meggle’s management on their severance pay, which is 25 percent more than the legal obligation, and a total of eight million kuna has been provided for them.

More than 4000 cows

Belje, by the way, also has a dairy cattle farm with more than 4,000 cows that produce 35 million litres of milk a year, as well as a dairy factory where famous Belje cheeses are prepared. With this acquisition, Belje will increase its share of milk purchases on the Croatian market from 11 to 16 percent, but will still remain the third player on that scene, where two thirds of the market is held by Dukat with 42 percent and Vindija with 29 percent.

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