THE DISCRIT COURT IN DOBOJ: The Russians fired the workers of Modriča Oil Refinery illegally

The Oil Refinery Modriča, owned by the Russian company “Neftegazinkor” is laying off the workers illegally and violating their rights, ruled the District Court in Doboj. The refinery has perfidiously tried to reduce the number of workers by forcing them to take tests although it is not prescribed by any law, learns CAPITAL.

Following such an action by the Refinery eight workers sought justice before the Basic Court in Modriča, which ruled in favor of Refinery.

However, the District Court in Doboj overturned that ruling and ruled in favor of three workers, while the other five are still awaiting a court decision.

Jovica Milanković, one of the workers who were fired and who had been employed at the Refinery for 23 years, told CAPITAL that the management of the company tried to reduce the number of workers in an extremely callous way, that is, by illegal testing.

“The workers did not want to compete among themselves as to who can do the test better, mostly because we believe that the testing was illegal and that the only legal test is the one on fire protection”, said Milanković.

He adds that the workers agreed to just sign the test, because then they cannot eliminate anyone at the expense of another worker.

“What is important is that we are now winning in the court that some of my colleagues have already received rulings in their favor, and the rest of us also hope that the outcome will be the same”, said Milanković.

Miroslav Savić is also one of the fired workers, and he was also employed at the Refinery for 23 years as an operator at the plant for the preparation and treatment of waste water.

He has now received a ruling in his favor, and emphasizes that he will return to work following the court’s decision.

“Of course I will go back to work. I have small children and I need a job. I should never have left that job, but the management of the Refinery did everything to illegally fire us”, said Savić for CAPITAL.

Like Milanković, he also testifies that he was subjected to illegal testing, which he also refused.

“Such tests are illegal and we did not want to be tested. Now the second-instance decision has shown that we were right and that we were fired against the law”, concluded Savić.

What is at issue?

Savić, as well as all the other fired workers, is represented in the court by lawyer Miloš Đurić, who says that this is the first time in his career that all of his appeal statements were upheld.

In the appeal that he submitted on behalf of Savić against the ruling of the Basic Court in Modriča, Đurić emphasized that the testing of workers, which is not prescribed either by the Labor Law or the employer's regulations, was conducted.

“Therefore, we cannot even assume what the consequences are if the worker takes the test and does not know the answer to any question or if he simply refuses to be tested”, read the appeal filed by the lawyer Đurić.

Đurić further clarifies that not a single provision of the law or the Rules of operation stipulates the testing of workers, and therefore neither the consequences in the event that the test is not passed.

“On the contrary, the Labor Law and the Rules of operation do stipulate that the employer can send an employee to professional development training and upskilling”, said Đurić.

He adds that an employer can send a worker who is unfamiliar with the subject matter he is working with to the professional development training and upskilling, and if he refuses, then there are measures prescribed by law.

He emphasized that after the workers did not complete the tests, that is, they only signed them, the Refinery terminated the position of “operator at the waste water preparation and treatment plant”, and stated that the reason for the termination was that the workers refused to be tested.

The refinery then made a decision to change the staff establishment plan and had terminated the position, cancelling the contracts.

Since these are the tasks that are, according to him, necessary for the normal functioning of production, the Refinery’s new staff establishment plan added three new workers to the existing position “operator at the plant for the preparation and treatment of waste water and vehicles for the collection of liquid substances”.

Subsequently the Refinery announces internal vacancy to fill these three positions.

FOTO: Ilustracija

One of the fired workers, Miroslav Savić, also applied to the vacancy, but the Refinery informed him in a letter that he doesn’t meet the conditions for the employment, because a qualified metal worker and driver  was sought by the vacancy, while he is an electrical installer.

With the new staff establishment plan the refinery added a new condition for employment, namely that a potential operator at the plant for the preparation and treatment of waste water and vehicles for the collection of waste liquid substances must be of “chemical/technological profession”, and has thus created an opportunity to employ three workers through internal transfer.

“The three of them were employed without having any work experience as operators at a plant for the preparation and treatment of waste water and without any testing, and today they do the same jobs that Miroslav Savić did”, explained Đurić in the appeal.

He emphasized that the position of operator at the plant for the preparation and treatment of waste water was terminated without reason, and all the work was assigned to another position.

“To make matters worse, all the witnesses who were heard before the Basic Court in Modriča confirmed that the aforementioned trio is doing all the work that the fired workers were doing”, added Đurić in the appeal.

The appeal further stated that the position was terminated because the workers did not pass the tests.

He explained that it should be borne in mind that this is a position at which work that is necessary for the functioning of the Refinery is being done.

“All witnesses confirmed that the same work that was done by the fired workers is now being done by other workers. Thus, this is a fictitious termination of a position where the tasks of one position are assigned to another position”, explained Đurić.

For the sake of clarification, Modriča Oil Refinery laid off eight workers in 2021.

The Court in Doboj has so far ruled in favor of three out of eight fired workers, and ordered the Refinery to return them to work and to give them back pay.

The other fired workers also believe that the ruling in their case will be similar.

Back in February 2022, the fired workers filed a lawsuit against the former company before the Basic Court in Modriča because they believed that they were fired illegally, especially considering that other workers came to their position immediately after their departure.

The Refinery ignored our requests to comment on the illegal dismissal of the workers.

The oil refinery was privatized in 2007 together with the oil refinery in Brod and the network of “Nestro Petrol” gas stations by the Russian company “NjeftegazinKor” for BAM 236 million.

Although the revival of this company as well as of the complete RS oil industry was announced after privatization, nothing came of it.

The refinery in Modriča has been operating at a loss for years, and it serves as a processing service for the “Optima Group”, which is also the owner of the production process in the refinery, and the number of workers is decreasing.

So before the privatization the refinery had 520 employees, while it ended the last year with only 183 of them and the accumulated loss of the company amounts to almost BAM 111 million.

CAPITAL: Bojana Ninković

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