Quitting Workers Threaten 'Life' of Bulgaria Lead-Zinc Plant

Industry | May 14, 2012, Monday // 14:21|  views

Workers of the Lead and Zinc Complex in Kardzhali renewed last week their protest rallies over the uncertain future of the plant. Photo by BGNES

Employees of the Lead and Zinc Complex (LZC; OTZK), the largest Bulgarian producer of non-ferrous metals in the southern city of Kardzhali, have decided to stop road blockades and collect signatures for a petition.

The workers renewed their protests last week due to the uncertain future of the plant.

OTZK has been out of operation in the past five months due to the plant's failure to meet environmental safety requirements.

OTZK owner Valentin Zahariev also failed to complete the investment program of the plant and to pay salaries to a total of 519 employees for six months.

After a Friday meeting with the leadership of the Confederation of Free and Independent Syndicates in Bulgaria, KNSB, and representatives of the Economy and Energy Ministry along with voiced optimism from Minister, Delyan Dobrev, employees of the so-called uninterruptable production of the plant recalled their applications to be released from job duties.

The strike committee and the labor unions decided to give the parties in the negotiations one more week to find a solution.

Ninety OTZK workers of those maintaining the furnaces have already left the complex, which can create huge problems, metallurgy experts explain.

The zinc must be kept in liquid state otherwise the furnaces will become unusable. This would not present an environmental hazard for the city, but will force the complex either to close for good or to replace the furnaces in question.

The demonstrators, who have erected a tent in the city's downtown to collect signatures for the petition, inform they have already received 2 000-strong support.

Employees of the Lead and Zinc Complex were on strike for about a month due to unpaid wages and social security contributions.

The workers started receiving their money back in mid-April, as Zahariev raised cash through the sale of the Gorubso mines in the southern town of Madan.

Gorubso-Madan was likewise in dire straits, with workers protesting due to unpaid salaries.

After the state interfered, the mines were sold to a company owned by Nikolay Valkanov and became operational again, after Valkanov took over the concession.

Valkanov is a former VP of Multigroup, the company of Bulgarian tycoon Iliya Pavlov, who was shot dead in 2003.

Valkanov currently owns "Minstroy" and Gorubso Zlatograd, another mining company in Southern Bulgaria, and holds the concession for the "Varba" mine.

As OTZK workers started receiving payments, Prime Minister Borisov announced that there would be a change of ownership of the plant.

Borisov vowed that the talks for the potential sale of the plant with the creditor banks would take no more than a month.

OTZK workers, however, decided not to wait until the end of one-month and said that they would block traffic at a key junction in Kardzhali for one hour.

The trade unions at the plant attributed the renewal of protests to the lack of any information about the talks for change of ownership of OTZK.

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Tags: Economy and Energy Ministry, Delyan Dobrev, KNSB, petition, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, OTZK, Lead and Zinc Complex, Valentin Zahariev, gorubso madan, mines, unpaid wages, protests, Nikolay Valkanov


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