The mayor of Velenje has appealed to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to prevent the head office of the household appliances maker Gorenje being moved to Ljubljana as planned by its new Chinese owners.
Mayor Bojan Kontič sees the plans, announced by Gorenje in late October, as yet another step to centralisation, which he says is one of Slovenia’s key problems.
A press release from the Velenje city said that the mayor’s letter of protest had been forwarded to Chinese Ambassador to Slovenia Wang Shunqing, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Boštjan Gorjup and the media.
The reaction comes after Gorenje announced it would split up into two companies as part of its integration a year after it was taken over by Hisense.
The management and administration was to move to Hisense Europe, headquartered in Ljubljana, which was to provide corporate support services for all Hisense companies in Europe.
Production was to remain based in Velenje, now Slovenia’s sixth largest city where Gorenje has been operating since its inception in 1950.
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The release from the city administration expressed concern over the latest activities and plans in what has been the pillar of the local economy for seven decades and one of Slovenia’s largest exporters.
“The current situation at the company, the new management’s plans and the mood among the employees are far from the promises and commitments the new owners made upon the takeover,” reads the release.
The local government met Gorenje chief managing director Chao Liu and representatives of the staff and their trade union in recent days over what it described in today’s release as a critical situation.
The employees are worried and scared because of conflicting information about the company’s plans and future, which they do not get until after they have become facts, say the city authorities.
“Due to substantial pressure on stepping up the work tempo, sickness absences are getting longer, increasingly many qualified staff is leaving, employees, including those with disabilities are being made redundant, and discontent among the employees is growing by the day.”
Arguing that moving highly-qualified staff to Ljubljana does not augur well, the city authorities say they believe the Gorenje management can run the company as well as it stays in Velenje.
The local authorities are also concerned about Gorenje’s plan to move its call centre to Serbia, saying it suggests the management was planning to keep only production at minimum possible costs in Velenje.
In response to the mayor’s letter, Gorenje said that calls on the prime minister to interfere in business decisions of a fully privately-owned company were unjustified and illegitimate.
The company is planning to accept the invitation to join the December session of the city council in order to present Hisense’s plans in detail.
Gorenje expressed understanding for the local community’s concerns, while it also said that it fund the local community’s support and cooperation exceptionally important.
The company said that Slovenia would gain from the creation of Hisense management hub for the whole Europe in Ljubljana.
The owner is organising the company in such a way as to integrate it into the Hisense corporation’s business environment, while also restructuring operations in order to preserve the company and to allow it to grow in the long run, Gorenje said.
It added that this should be in the interest of the municipality in which Gorenje with more than 4,000 employees was becoming Hisense’s central production location for the entire Europe.