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Croatian workers protest against shipyard sale

Croatian workers protest against shipyard sale

About 3,000 workers marched alongside citizens in the southern Croatian city of Split on Wednesday to protest the planned sale of their shipyard, which they fear would cost them their jobs.
Donning their worn-out blue working pants and blowing whistles, the protesters waved Croatian flags and carried banners urging the government to save the shipyard. One worker held a big notice of death for Brodosplit, the name of Split shipyard.
The European Union _ which Croatia hopes to join by 2012 _ has demanded that Zagreb stop heavily subsidizing its shipyards because the practice violates the bloc's competition rules. As a result, the Croatian government has put its six shipyards on sale.
Until the sale is completed, all shipyards cannot take new orders, meaning their is no work for their employees. Workers also fear wage cuts and layoffs.
If the sale fails, the shipyards face closures _ increasing the unemployment rate as this Adriatic nation battles the financial crisis. Closing the shipyards would also put an end to a centuries-old tradition that has often provided the main source of income to citizens of entire towns. Some 1,500 citizens joined the workers in Wednesday's protest.
"The EU has pushed us to the wall," Zvonko Segvic, a union leader in Split, told The Associated Press. He urged the government to find a way to protect the workers.
"I know we have problems, but workers are not responsible for them," he said.
Labor unions claim that most of the government's subsidies for the Split shipyard were either wasted on wrong projects or embezzled by former managers. An investigation into alleged embezzlement was launched in 2007, and has not yet led to any indictments.
The government is torn between the need to heed the EU call and the fear of angering workers just a year before parliamentary elections.
The shipyards employ about 11,000 people across the country, but involve more than 100,000 with contractors.
The current unemployment rate stands at 16.5 percent.
Two of the shipyards have been offered at market price. The other four are to be sold at the symbolic price of 1 kuna each _ (EURO)0.13 or 18 U.S. cents. But the buyer must either cover the yards' considerable debts or commit to invest in them.
The tender for the shipyards' sale _ issued at the time of the global economic downturn _ resulted in only three offers and they all were rejected as flawed by the state-run Agency for Protecting Market Competition.
The agency's chief, Olgica Spevec, said this week that the goal was to get "reliable investors who would be capable of restructuring the shipyards and make them competitive on the global market." Neither offer guaranteed that, she said.


Updated : 2021-10-26 00:50 GMT+08:00