No solution to Koper port blockage, economic damage enormous
Rail freight transport in the country has come to a complete halt, causing an enormous economic damage.
The spontaneous blockage at the state-owned port operator Luka Koper started on Friday morning, a few hours before the annual shareholder meeting, at which state assets custodian SSH planned to dismiss three supervisors.
The proposal for the overhaul of the nine-strong supervisory board was eventually shelved and Marko Jazbec, the boss of SSH, which manages the state's majority stake in Luka Koper, stepped down.
This was not enough to appease the workers, who are demanding the resignation of Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič and Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja.
They are accusing the minister of undermining the company's development and the planned construction of a second rail track to the port.
The workers' council moreover accused the government on Saturday of lying about its plans.
It said it had got hold of an e-mail containing Gašperšič's explanations regarding plans to overhaul the management model at the port.
The e-mail is about establishing a port administration and revising the concession contract with Luka Koper to give a concession also to another company.
Already yesterday national rail operator Slovenske železnice introduced congestion limits affecting international train transport on Friday.
Road transport also continues to be affected, as the workers allow only lorries with highly perishable goods to enter the port.
Forty train compositions were not able to get to the port, while six, packed with goods that arrived by sea, were stuck at the port.
As a result, the group around the rail operator suffers a damage of around 700,000 a day.
"We would like the situation to get back to normal as soon because it is causing an enormous economic damage," the company said in a press release.
The Luka Koper management and senior leaders of the port operator said the workers refuse to engage in talks, as their demands are directed exclusively at Prime Minister Cerar.
This morning, they urged Cerar to engage in talks with the workers, as the blockade can "cause enormous economic damage, not only to the port, but to the logistics sector in general".
Cerar, however, rejected the workers' demand for a meeting in Koper, letting them know he would not accept any ultimatums.
He said the blockade was completely unacceptable, causing million of euros in damage and seriously undermining the prospects for a second rail track to the port.
He urged the port's management to immediately restore normal working conditions and the economy minister to meet the leadership of Luka Koper and Slovenske železnice.
However, Minister Zdravko Počivalšek's meeting with the two companies' leaderships this evening brought no solution, as the Luka Koper management walked out when he said he wanted to talk only to the two CEOs.
He moreover called on Luka Koper CEO Dragan Matić to take responsibility and do all in his power to stop causing the economic damage, which is felt both in Slovenia and abroad".
Luka Koper meanwhile accused Počivalšek in a written statement of wanting to engage in "communication similarly to other government officials - tete-a-tete, without minutes, so that no evidence is left behind".
"I think it is clear who in this country is not willing to cooperate," CEO Matić was quoted in the press release as saying.
Počivalšek announced his efforts to resolve the situation would continue, while some media reports suggested the blockage could last for a few more days.