Workers at Faltering Military Plant 'Laud' Bulgarian PMIndustry | January 28, 2013, Monday // 15:41| views
Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, pledges the heavily indebted State-owned arms manufacturer, VMZ Sopot, will be privatized only if a suitable investor emerges. Photo by BGNES
Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, was greeted with applause by workers at Bulgaria's heavily indebted State-owned arms manufacturer, VMZ Sopot.
"The fate of the factory depends only on you," Borisov told the protesting and striking workers.
Borisov arrived in the town of Sopot Monday in the company of Economy and Energy Minister, Delyan Dobrev. Together with the factory's Director, Ivan Stoenchev, and representatives of the trade unions they met with the demonstrators.
The applause came because last Friday the Cabinet wired BGN 4 M for the employees' overdue salaries.
The meeting was delayed by one hour, which the PM explained with visiting first the local high school whose students walked out last week to join their parents' rally.
The syndicalists said Monday they counted on Borisov and his government to fulfill their commitment to secure the future of VMZ Sopot and asked for the people responsible for the plundering of the once thriving weapons manufacturer to be identified and prosecuted.
They also announced the Prosecutor's Office has already started a probe.
Borisov told the workers that in case of needed layoffs, they will be redirected to other jobs and pledged a recovery of the plant. He was firm it will be privatized only if a suitable investor emerges.
The PM informed that after talks with the trade unions, it has been decided that Stoenchev will be given a second chance and he will keep for the time being the post despite his own strong criticism for the Director's performance. He added he will visit the plant again next month to check on Stoenchev's work.
Borisov assured the workers they will receive the remaining amounts owed to them in salaries, so they did not need to organize more protest rallies. According to him, the plant already has several new orders lined-up.
Last week, talks between trade unions and the management of the factory VMZ Sopot were called off for next week.
Trade unions have requested more information and specific data for optimization plans of the management, which says it needs to lay off some 2/3 of the factory's workers to get the severely indebted state company back on foot.
VMZ Sopot's workers, who have not received their wages for months, have been staging strikes since November in the town of Sopot where tensions have been boiling for months.
The strike, however was called off by the trade unions last Friday after the news about the salaries transfer emerged.
Two weeks ago, the privatization procedure for the plant fell through, after the only bidder failed to present an adequate proposal.
The center-right GERB cabinet, led by Borisov, has claimed that only a significant layoff, to be followed by privatization, can salvage the works.
The VMZ Sopot weapons factory is estimated to have gathered a debt of BGN 140 M, with significant parts of it overdue.
Proceedings against the factory by its creditors have already been started.