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Liquidation of Moroccan oil refinery 'a catastrophe’

23 March, 2016IndustriALL affiliates in Morocco are in shock as a Moroccan court has ordered the SAMIR oil refinery into liquidation, jeopardizing the jobs of more than 1,000 workers as well as the livelihoods of around 5,000 people dependent on the country’s only refinery.

Tragically, after hearing the devastating verdict announced on 21 March, Zakaria Atouby, a long-time trade union member of the CDT at SAMIR, succumbed to a heart attack and died.

“It is a catastrophe,” said Latifa Benwakrim from SNIPGN-CDT, IndustriALL’s Moroccan affiliate in the petrol and gas industry. “This will have wide ranging repercussions both economically and socially.”

SAMIR, which owes more than US$1.3 billion to the Moroccan tax authorities, has ten days to launch an appeal against the decision made by the commercial tribunal in Casablanca. The tribunal has authorized the continuation of the business for a period of three months. If another buyer is not found by 20 June, it will more than likely close.

The Moroccan government estimates that SAMIR’S total debt amounts to around US$4.5 billion. Production at the factory halted in August 2015 and workers’ wages have been paid up until now.

“We want the refinery to start production again as soon as possible and for the government to guarantee workers’ jobs,” said Benwakrim.

The SAMIR refinery is controlled by Corral Holdings, which has a 62.26 per cent stake in the company. Corral Holdings is owned by the second richest man in Saudi Arabia, billionaire Sheikh Mohamed Houssein El Amoudi.

SAMIR failed to raise a cash injection of US$1.4 billion last year and the court rejected a recent debt-restructuring proposal from the company, which came without guarantees.

“Corral Holdings has never put any money into this business. Everything has been financed on credit from the very beginning. El Amoudi proposed to bring US$1 billion of funds to restart the refinery, a promise that he didn’t keep. On the contrary, he wants to make the world his witness as he takes Morocco hostage,” said Benwakrim.

SAMIR's biggest creditor is the Moroccan state at US$1.4 billion. It also owes Moroccan banks around US$800 million, with the biggest single creditor being Banque Populaire.

“Corral Holdings has taken no risks and given no guarantees whatsoever, while it has profited from the company without ever injecting any money,” adds Benwakrim.

On 12 March, representatives from IndustriALL and its Moroccan affiliates joined more than 3,000 people in a SNIPGN–CDT led rally in Muhammadia city where the refinery is located. They called on the SAMIR to resume production and save jobs.

Speaking after the court announcement, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, said:

“The privatization of a precious national asset has culminated in a disaster for everyone concerned, except the buyer itself. SAMIR now owes billions to Moroccan banks and the Moroccan government, while thousands of jobs are at stake. We urge the government to protect workers’ jobs and do everything in its power to get the refinery up and running again as soon as possible.”