ZAGREB, February 24, 2018 – The Sisak oil refinery’s workers staged a protest rally outside the government headquarters on Friday, demanding a moratorium on all business decisions by the INA management until the completion of the negotiations on the buy-out of MOL’s shares in INA.
The protesters demanded that they be received by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to inform him about the real situation in the refinery and the consequences of the decision to shut down the FCC unit.
The protest was organised by a group of workers standing in defence of the refinery after an announcement that the FCC (Fluid Catalytic Cracking) unit was to be shut down and 40 workers would be laid off, which has been interpreted as the start of shutting down the entire factory.
About three hundred protesters gathered at St. Mark’s Square carrying banners stating that they will not give the refinery, INA, Croatia away.
Predrag Sekulić, a leader of the protesters, asked why Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was staying silent and in that way jeopardising Croatia’s energy independence. “MOL is Hungary’s strategic interest and INA has to be Croatia’s strategic interest. Stop your silence, prime minister, act like a statesman,” was Sekulić’s message.
“MOL has no intention of developing but destroying INA. They are firing workers in exploration, production and retail. They are destroying highly educated expert personnel, deliberately losing the market here and abroad, decreasing refinery processing and are importing finished products from Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania,” Sekulić said.
The Sisak refinery hasn’t been modernised, however, it produces European quality fuel and the best by-products in all of MOL’s group. It recently produced 100 octane petrol which other refineries in the MOL group cannot produce, and it is obvious that that is bothering someone, Sekulić claimed.
Another unionist said that shutting down the Sisak refinery would mean that the competition would have Croatia on the palm of its hands even though the refinery managed to survive even during shelling in the 1990s war. It has a perfect location, its own raw material, market and conditions that cannot be equalled in the neighbourhood.
No one has brought the survival of the refinery in Bosanski Brod, Bosnia and Herzegovina, into question which is by no means anywhere near as successful as the one in Sisak. Does this government know what Croatia’s strategic interests are, unionist Zdravko Družić asked.
Explaining its recent decision on the FFC unit, the INA management board said that this was a business decision aimed at significantly reducing losses (losses in 2017 amounted to 207 million kuna). Shutting the FCC unit down doesn’t necessarily mean the refinery will be shut down. Oil refining will continue in blocks whiles secondary units will continue working without breaks as has been the case until now.
Those workers who will be affected, at most 40, will be redistributed to vacant positions within the company and according to business requirements. If we do not manage to do that, they will receive severance packages in amounts significantly higher than the Croatian average, the management said.
They added that the demand for a moratorium on business decisions and the fact that the protest was not supported by INA’s key unions shows that the organisers of today’s protest aren’t interested in protecting workers because a moratorium would mean that the company would not be able to continue doing business normally and important projects would have to be suspended.
The Ministry of Environment Protection and Energy said that Minister Tomislav Ćorić had sent INA’s unions an invitation to meet on Wednesday, February 28.
The government’s stance is that the refinery business at the entire INA level should be advanced and in that context, the government’s aim is to ensure the company’s vertical integration with all its components including the refinery business, a statement from the ministry said.
Currently, the government is in the process of selecting a financial consultant to evaluate INA’s value and of finding a potential strategic partner in implementing the transaction to buy out MOL’s shares of INA, the statement said.