Outraged Lead Factory Workers: Owner Kills Bulgaria's Industry
Some 200 workers from Bulgaria's largest lead and zinc factory assembled in protest in capital Sofia Wednesday to express their outrage at the management of their factory.
The 600 workers at the Lead and Zinc Complex (OTzK) in Bulgaria's southeastern city of Kardzhali have not been paid their salaries for months and are now in the 42th day of their strike.
In the past weeks, workers and trade unions had called on the government to pressure factory owner, controversial Bulgarian businessman Valentin Zahariev, to pay his dues, and to leave the factory, if possible.
Wednesday protesters in Sofia renewed their calls, tabling a petition to Parliament in which they request that Bulgaria nationalize the Lead and Zinc Complex.
They also requested legislative changes making the employees of an organization its top creditor in case of bankruptcy.
This move was necessitated by fears that Zahariev might file for a default and never pay the wages of his workers.
"At present, a creditor can request his debtor to be delcared insolvent if he has more than BGN 5,000 of overdue loans, but employees cannot do that," stated trade unionist Ivanka Karakoleva from the Kardzhali organization of Bulgaria's Confederation of Independent Trade Unions.
The owner had announced plans to take loans amounting to some BGN 1.5 M to cover overdue wages, which are of roughly the same amount.
Wednesday protesters also requested tougher regulatory censures in case of an employer's failure to pay the salaries of his workers.
They also revealed information which they say shows that owner Zahariev had engaged in a chronic draining of the OTzK.
"When Zahariev bought the complex, it had loans of BGN 40 M. Now loans amount to no less than BGN 300 M," said Karakoleva.
Protesters presented their greivances and information suggesting corporate abuse to Bulgarian Parliament's vice-chair Anastas Anastasov, who promised that the state will take everything into account and most probably launch a legal investigation on suspicions of criminal mismanagement.
At their protest Wednesday, Lead and Zinc Complex workers said that their dire situation is but an example of a larger process of draining and bringing to destruction some of Bulgaria's most promising industry units.
They called on the Bulgarian state to step up measures to reverse that situation and to protect the country's industry.
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