ECONOMY

Future of shipyard looks gray

Hellenic Shipyards, the country’s largest shipbuilding concern, seems to be heading for a crisis situation that the government cannot afford to ignore. The previously state-owned firm, which was bought by Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in 2002, and «endowed» at the same time with future orders from the Greek navy, doubled its losses in 2005 to about 70 million euros. Meanwhile, the new owners, Thyssen Group, which has acquired control of HDW, have not effected a legally required share capital increase, posing the specter of closure. Hellenic Shipyards’ financial straits, including a 40-million-euro entry in its financial statement for unspecified provisions, are combined with restructuring plans that are fueling increasing labor unrest. Staff allege that management plan to reduce the number of full-time workers and yesterday staged a two-hour stoppage for the non-renewal of contracts of 97 colleagues. They also charge that there are plans to lay off 250 staff after the termination of a state train construction contract on June 30. Stavros Markatos, the union’s head, says the 1.3-billion-euro program for the construction of submarines for the navy is nearing completion and the company has not worked out any new investment plans that will sustain employment; he complains that the Germans transferred a 45-million-euro submarine job to Kiel, in Germany, without the required approval by the Defense Ministry. The Thyssen Group is reportedly putting pressure on the government to win an order for 82 trains for the Hellenic Railways Organization and another for a new navy frigate.