ECONOMY

ELPE unionists will challenge merger with Petrola in court

Thessaloniki – Unionists at state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) yesterday reiterated their opposition to the company’s merger with Latsis group oil refiner Petrola Hellas and vowed to do whatever they could to block the merger. The Panhellenic Union of ELPE Employees, the umbrella union, announced during a press conference that they will file an injunction in a lower Athens court today or tomorrow to nullify the decision made by the ELPE board of directors on June 3 on the merger of the two companies through the absorption of Petrola. The decision, approved on the same day by the Petrola board, included the sale of a 16.65 percent stake in ELPE to a Latsis group company which owns the majority of Petrola. Though for the time being the transaction has resulted in the nationalization of Petrola, the government wants to lower the State’s stake in ELPE. Thus, unionists said that the deal has turned ELPE into a Latsis group hostage. Besides their court move, the unionists will stage rallies and a strike whose dates are still to be finalized. Four of the five constituent members of the Panhellenic Union of ELPE Employees have agreed with these actions, while the union at the Thessaloniki refinery has yet to pronounce itself for or against. According to the unionists, the agreement can be invalidated on two counts. First, there is no concurring opinion by the Energy Regulatory Authority. And second, there are cases pending in the Council of State challenging the State’s decision to renew Petrola’s permit to operate as well as the safety of its installations in Elefsina, west of Athens. Union President Nikos Orfanos added that the meeting of ELPE’s board was illegal in itself, because it did not take place in the usual premises (ELPE’s headquarters were occupied by protesting employees) and because the items on the agenda were not made public until 24 hours before the meeting. «This coming merger is a well set-up deception,» said Orfanos, who accused ELPE Managing Director Athanassios Karachalios of having masterminded the operation. «The so-called synergies that ELPE can obtain are a lie; Petrola does not do refining, it does not have gasoline stations, has never invested in environmentally friendly procedures, has no activities in natural gas, electricity production and petrochemicals. On the other hand, labor relations in the company remind one of the Middle Ages,» Orfanos said. Unionists further asserted that Petrola, with its «antiquated» installations, will be the only beneficiary.