Trade unions urging President Basescu to step in for Oltchim

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In an open letter issued on Friday, leader of the Oltchim Free Trade Unions Mihai Diculoiu is urging President Traian Basescu, on behalf of the trade unions of the Oltchim chemical works, to step in again to save Oltchim from bankruptcy.

The unions point out that Oltchim, the company that achieves 65 percent of the industrial output of the southern county of Valcea, was conceived in 1966 to work in an integrated system with the Petrochimia Arpechim refinery of Pitesti, which provides the basic raw materials, namely the ethylene and the propylene, for 60 percent of the production capacity.

Yet, in 2008, Petrom, through its major shareholder OMV of Austria, halted production at Arpechim, and now Oltchim is operating at 40 percent of its full capacity because of the lack of ethylene and propylene, and under unprofitable conditions.

The letter says the Oltchim workers have been bereft of some of their wage rights mentioned under the collective labour agreement and some 1,400 workers have been furloughed each month by rotation since June.

It also argues that besides the 3,400 workers of Oltchim depending on the fate of Olctchim are 7,000 more workers of companies operating in Valcea County in the areas of raw materials, energy and servicing.

The only solution of Oltchim to operate at full capacity would be to take over Arpechim, the unions argue, saying that they have failed to raise a loan on Government guarantees, as it was agreed during a visit there by President Basescu.

The unions are also arguing that the Oltchim employees have reached the limits of bearableness after 9 months of the works operating at reduced capacity, and are calling on Basescu to get involved personally for Oltchim to win access to a 62-million-euro loan needed to take over Petrochimia Arpechim and for the relevant authorities to take action against PCC-SE, which, in the words of union leader Diculoiu, are attempting to undermine Oltchim and denigrate the Romanian state.

Oltchim reported a business turnover in excess of 550 million euros in 2008. As much as 75 percent of its production is bound for exportation.

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