ECONOMY

ELPE unions charge favoritism

Labor unionists at Greece’s biggest oil refinery group, state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), yesterday renewed their attack on the government for the absorption of lesser rival Petrola, announced at the end of May, saying it amounted to favoritism toward the Latsis group. ELPE workers’ representative on the board of directors Vassilis Nikitas charged during a press briefing that Petrola’s financial statements appeared spruced up ahead of the merger to show the enterprise as profitable and that, according to tax inspections for past fiscal years, the enterprise had not returned to the government taxes of 9 million euros withheld directly from employees’ pay. Further, he said, Petrola’s reservoirs and equipment are not up to the required standards and that ELPE will need to make an unforeseen additional investment. ELPE unions have filed for an injunction, calling the decision of merger illegal. When the merger was announced, ELPE said it expected it to generate synergies of at least 25 million euros annually. The deal involved an initial sale of 16.65 percent of ELPE to the Latsis group for 326 million euros before ELPE takes over Petrola. Latsis will ultimately hold a 25.35 percent stake in the new company. ELPE union leader Nikos Orfanos expressed fears that a takeover of management by Latsis after five years would result in a substantial rise in fuel prices. He said the unions are planning «hard and painful surprises» for the government as of September. Attending former employees of ErgoBank, which was absorbed by EFG Eurobank of the Latsis group in 2000, charged that the absorption had been followed by a serious deterioration in work conditions, leading to 1,300 resignations.