Union leaders met in Rijeka on Wednesday to discuss the future of shipbuilding at the troubled Uljanik and May 3rd shipyards.
Pula’s Uljanik shipyard and Rijeka’s May 3rd shipyard are both in dire financial woes and on the brink of bankruptcy, owing back wages to their workers and short of cash to buy material to complete the ships already in progress in their shipyards. Both shipyards are owned by the Uljanik Group.
After their meeting union leaders held a press conference to inform the public of their conclusions. In spite of the fact that the Uljanik Group is a privately owned company, union leaders hold government responsible for the troubles in both shipyards. They want government to either take a more active role in saving the company or to publicly concede the loss and get out of the way.
“If government, which has been involved in this process since 1991, no longer wants to participate in this process, then it has to state that clearly. But then the Economy Minister cannot go around saying that bankruptcy is government's last resort, while simultaneously doing everything possible to force these shipyards into bankruptcy. In that case, the government has to admit that it failed, or that it no longer wants to be involved in either of these two shipyards and then the Commercial Court and insolvency administrators will get involved,” said the president of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia Mladen Novosel.
The key date for both shipyards is just around the corner, as on January 25th the deadline to find new investors expires, and both shipyards will be forced into bankruptcy. However, Novosel is open to this option. “The silver lining here is the fact that in Croatia there are a number of companies that have gone into bankruptcy proceedings and are doing good business today. But for that to take place we need to hang on to these workers because without workers no strategic investor will come here. No one can continue production if there are no workers,” Novosel concluded.
Despite both being owned by the Uljanik Group, the two shipyards are facing slightly different challenges. While Uljanik is in the process of finding a strategic partner to invest into the company, having parted ways with Danko Končar and his Kermas Company, May 3rd is looking first to be divested from the Uljanik Group and only then to find a strategic investor.
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