ZAGREB, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Workers from the biggest Croatian shipbuilding group Uljanik started yet another mass strike on Monday.
This is the fourth major strike this year in the company that is facing financial problems and uncertain future. The latest strike by Uljanik's workers, which began on October 20, was put on halt on November 19 after the new management of the company was elected. The workers were paid just a minimum wage for September and now they are demanding the rest of the pay, as well as unpaid salaries for October.
Boris Cerovac, president of the strike committee, told reporters on Monday that workers are aware that the strike could mean the end of the company.
"I hope that someone is willing to find a solution in a short time. Nevertheless, the problem is quite large and significant. We are approaching the bankruptcy," Cerovec said, N1 television reported. The workers, he said, no longer have the patience nor the strength to believe in the salvation of the shipyard.
For the first time the strike committee has decided to close all work in the shipyard. That means that the sub-contractors who were working in the shipyard are also forbidden to continue their work.
Currently, Uljanik is building the world's first polar discovery cruise ship, Scenic Eclipse. The new strike might fully stop the building which was already slowed down due to the previous strikes and it could have serious financial effects on the company.
Some Uljanik's clients have already terminated construction contracts of ships worth millions of euros due to the recent strikes.
Uljanik is the oldest shipyard in Croatia that has been in financial difficulties for several years. In the last 17 years, Croatia spent over 30 billion kuna (4.7 billion U.S. dollars) to save its shipyards, but state help is no longer possible after joining the European Union in 2013 since the EU rules don't allow state financial help.
The Croatian government and Uljanik's management still hope to restructure the company with a new partner who would cover the company's debts and invest money in the shipyard.
Minister of Economy Darko Horvat said on Monday that he doesn't support the new strike. "This strike was not supposed to happen because I believe that it will not solve Uljanik's problem," Horvat told reporters on Monday. He stressed that the financial burden of the fallen shipyard is on the government and that the government is searching for new partners who are willing to invest in Uljanik.
At the government session in October, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said that from 2010 to September 2018, the government has issued 7.5 billion kuna (1.15 billion U.S. dollars) worth of guarantees for the Uljanik shipbuilding group. By the end of this year, at least 2.35 billion kuna (360 million U.S. dollars) would be paid from the state budget and that the amount could be even bigger.