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INA workers protest MOL proposals with windshield-cleaning, gum-selling

Deals

Members of the INAŠ workers union took the streets of five cities in Croatia yesterday in an odd form of protest against MOL’s proposal for Croatian oil and gas company INA. MOL currently holds a stake of about 49% in INA while the Croatian government owns approximately 45%; the two are currently in negotiations regarding restructuring of the company and upgrading drilling equipment.

Yesterday, INA employees were in the streets of Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Sisak washing car windshields and selling chewing gum to passers-by while carrying placards and banners with the slogan “INA radi, MOL se gradi” (Literally, “INA works, MOL is still being built”) and messages such as “INA will become a drugstore.” The protestors reportedly cleaned hundreds of windshields in the action meant to symbolize worker fears that they’ll lose jobs and be reduced to such labor.

INAŠ president Rilović Maja opined to local media in Split that “Instead of protecting national interests and the country's energy independence through preservation of INA as a vertically-integrated oil company, the government sits idly by and watches as MOL systematically violates contractual obligations and converts INA outlets…”

Maja maintained that “While MOL invests in its plants and has one of the most modern refineries in Europe, Croatia's refinery in Sisak has been reduced to storing products imported from Hungary.” Meanwhile, he said, INA no longer has outlets in Serbia and has seen massive reduction in market share in Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina thanks to MOL actions.

INAŠ is one of four trade unions of INA employees; other unions have not joined the protest actions.

The latest round of negotiations also places emphasis on INA’s natural gas operations, which are at the heart of a conflict between MOL and the Croatian government going back to a 2008 bribery case in which former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was found guilty of accepting a €5 million payoff from MOL.

While the Croatian law enforcement body USKOK has requested that then-MOL chairman/CEO Zsolt Hernádi be submitted to questioning in a reopening of the case, MOL officials on Thursday denied any such request, quoted in a statement to MTI with “the accusations are unfounded — as confirmed by international legal experts — and the company would continue to cooperate with all authorities in the matter.”

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