Liberty Ostrava and Tameh's staff will be at home for another week — ČT24 — Czech Television

Czech workers at the Liberty Ostrava smelter and its energy supplier Tame, who were due to return to work on Wednesday, will stay home for another week, spokespeople for both companies announced on Tuesday. The head of the Kovo union, Roman Ďurčo, wrote on X Network that the promise of workers' return at the beginning of the year was unrealistic. Last week, the power supply to the smelter itself was shut down, leaving businesses out of business. Subsequently, the company ended up in bankruptcy and the Ostrava Smelter justified its bankruptcy by saying that it did not pay and owed two billion crowns for energy supplies.

“Employees of Liberty Ostrava continue to work from January 3 to 8, 2024, in accordance with the labor law, including other restrictions on the part of the employer. The return to work will be on January 9,” Liberty Ostrava spokeswoman Katerina Zajikova said on Tuesday. According to the signed collective agreement, the employees take home one hundred percent of their salary.

“I cannot comment on current developments, but the loan has not been repaid, so Tameh cannot supply energy to Liberty Ostrava, so most of our employees are on the road,” Tameh spokesman Patrik Schober said.

Zajíčková noted that employees will be informed about the current situation on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. According to some employees, the Liberty Ostrava management sent an SMS message to those contacted by phone. Others don't hear the news until they come to work for the Wednesday shift. “Liberty is working with relevant stakeholders to find a quick and viable solution to the melting of electricity and other media,” he stressed.

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Next meeting

Petr Slanina, head of the grassroots organization of the trade union KOVO Liberty CR, admitted that he more or less expected the extension of workers' stay at home. “I hope that this will not happen again and that some agreement will be reached between Tame and Liberty Ostrava during the week,” he said.

Liberty's supervisory board is holding an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, and unionists have begun a meeting between the unions, smelter management and Tameh, which could take place this week and possibly next week.

During a meeting with Moravian-Silesian Governor Jan Krkoska (ANO) ahead of the Christmas holidays, Ďurčo said that promises to return workers by January 3 were unrealistic. “Technically or economically, it is not possible for the staff to return before the end of January, and that is an optimistic view of the matter,” Ďurčo said on Tuesday. According to him, there will be another meeting at the regional office on Friday, where the future of the entire steel industry will be discussed, and the rise in prices of regulated components of energy will also be discussed.

The beginning of the restoration

Court at the same time Tuesday in bankruptcy Register Released Tameh's motion to allow restructuring. According to this proposal, the reorganization of the company should be mainly based on the restructuring of the creditors' claims, which is to postpone their maturity or to ensure the financing of the further operation of the plant during the current restructuring. The moratorium is protected from creditors by a moratorium declared by the court. But the company is due to begin restructuring this month. Liberty representatives had previously announced plans to restart the blast furnace in January.

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Liberty currently owes about two billion crowns to Tameha alone, but claims against the smelter have been filed by several creditors. Liberty told its creditors that all claims would be paid in full, but later than originally agreed.

However, according to information on Argus Media's website, it sold emission allowances for 350 million euros in the period from August 2022 to September 2023, which is about nine billion crowns. Emissions payments are critical to restarting production at Liberty.

Liberty and Tame are closely linked economically and technologically. Tameh is a former Energetica plant, built as part of what was then Nova Huta, now Liberty. Tameh smelters provide electricity, various gases and steam. In turn, Liberty provides fuel to Smoke in the form of blast furnace and coke oven gases, without which the energy company cannot function.

When the smelter was owned by ArcelorMittal Group, Energetica was spun off as a separate company. In 2019, British businessman Sanjeev Gupta's GFG Alliance became the owner of the Liberty Steel Group smelter, which was itself a joint venture between ArcelorMittal Group and Polish holding Darren.

Tameh has more than three hundred employees, with about six thousand at the Liberty Ostrava smelter and its subsidiaries. Employees working on necessary maintenance or keeping the coke plant in a condition known as hot depression continue to work. There are four hundred people in total. During hot quenching, significantly less heat is maintained than during normal operation. Since October, the smelter has had its last working blast furnace in a warm slump.

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Liberty Ostrava produces steel mainly for the construction, engineering and petrochemical industries. However, it faces a long-term decline in demand and is having trouble servicing its obligations. The situation escalated in mid-December when Tame announced that he was running out of coal and would soon cut off electricity to the smelter.

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