ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek government submitted a bill to parliament on Wednesday opening the way for the country’s dominant power utility PPC to begin selling coal-fired plants in May, a move strongly opposed by workers who have threatened strikes in protest.
Athens has agreed with its foreign creditors that Public Power Corp. (PPC) (DEHr.AT), which is 51 percent state-owned, will sell plants equal to about 40 percent of its coal-fired capacity this year.
Greece, which is implementing reforms in exchange for loans from the European Union, will divest the capacity to comply with a European court ruling which said that PPC had abused its dominant position in the coal market.
The draft legislation, which says PPC must launch an international tender by May 31, was submitted to parliament after EU antitrust regulators approved Greek measures to open up the coal market on Tuesday.
GENOP-DEH, PPC’s main labour union, which calls the planned sale a “national crime”, has threatened to start rolling 48-hour strikes once the bill is submitted to parliament.
The units to be sold are Meliti I and the yet-to-be-built Meliti II in northern Greece along with another two units in the southern Greek town of Megalopolis.
PPC will transfer the units to two subsidiaries which will then be spun off from the group.
In a market test conducted by the European Commission’s directorate general for competition, 15 investors expressed interest in acquiring the plants.
PPC said last month that several Chinese firms were among the possible suitors and that it had hired PwC and HSBC as consultants on the sale.
According to the bill, workers at the units to be sold will not be laid off for six years.
The GENOP-DEH union, which said the planned sale was “the final straw hurting irreversibly the state’s interests”, sent a letter to parliament this week urging lawmakers to reject the bill.
“PPC’s assets constitute national wealth,” said GENOP, which fears job losses. “We call on you, with a sense of duty ... to prevent PPC’s breakup.”
Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Adrian Croft