Negotiators in Seaport Strike Near Positions

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Both sides remain reserved, sticking to their agreement of not commenting on or revealing the contents of the talks. The negotiations are expected to resume tomorrow, following a meeting of Luka Koper supervisors that is scheduled for noon.

Trade union representative Mladen Jovicic however told the press that while the sides managed to come closer and bring the tone of the talks down a notch, they have not come closer to resolving issues on safety at work and a new system of work that is opposed by the crane operators.

CEO Gregor Veselko confirmed that the main issues remained open, adding that the estimated loss had increased to EUR 950,000. On the other hand, he said that the situation in the port was slowly normalising – with the exception of the container terminal.

Apart from demanding improvements in workers' safety, the crane operators oppose a new work scheme envisaging three operators switching on two cranes in one shift, while currently two operators work one crane. The changes would also cut their breaks from two hours to one.

The management however deemed the measure that prolongs the operators' working hours as necessary due to high levels of transshipment, stressing that it was only temporary and that the operators will be paid additionally.

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Six days into the strike, national railway company Slovenske zeleznice said today that a continuation of the strike would cause an "unsustainable and unmanageable situation" and have substantial negative consequences on railway companies and their users.

Due to the limited transshipment capacity at the port of Koper, 17 container trains and 14 standard cargo trains were held up today in the Slovenian railway system. During the strike, the company recorded a 44% drop in the number of transported cargo carriages compared to the same period last year, which translates to a drop of 63,000 tonnes of goods and a loss of EUR 506,000.

Alongside the crane operators' strike, around a third of workers hired by Luka Koper's subcontractors are protesting at the port, fighting for working conditions equal to those of Luka Koper employees.

Veselko meanwhile managed to convince the subcontractors' workers to accept Luka Koper as mediator in their dispute with the employers. He added that the management was not able to directly intervene regarding labour relationships between them and their employers.

The CEO said however that the management was already in talks with the subcontractors, who according to him expressed readiness for a meeting with the workers.

According to Luka Koper spokesman Sebastjan Sik, some 290 subcontractor workers were scheduled to work at the terminals today, but only around 190 showed up.

Meanwhile, President Danilo Tuerk reacted to the strike, calling for an "immediate agreement between representatives of employers and workers, which would find the best solution for the disagreements within the framework of the law and collective agreement".

In an answer to a letter from the NGO Invisible Workers of the World (IWW) about the problem of wages of workers employed at Luka Koper through various subcontractors, Tuerk said there was no excuse for the underprivileged position of these workers.

He said he was closely following the strike and its economic and other consequences, adding that Luka Koper management should conclude such contracts with subcontractors' workers which would not cause pay anomalies.

A part of Slovenian trade unions meanwhile responded to the threat of Luka Koper management to dismiss the organisers of the crane operators' strike, stressing the need for a greater protection of strike committees. They announced they would propose changes to the strike act in the autumn.

Veselko told the national broadcaster RTV Slovenija late on Tuesday that before the potential dismissals, the management would sit at the table with the leaders of the strike, expectedly on Friday or Monday.

Luka Koper is in a majority ownership of the state, which controls a 51% stake. State-run KAD and SOD funds own an additional 11.13% and 5.09%, respectively, while the city municipality of Koper holds a 3.34% stake.
 

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