WILLEMSTAD - Curaçao Refinery Utilities (CRU) will close its doors for good at the end of September. All permanent employees are offered a redundancy scheme. For employees who do not agree with this, a dismissal permit is requested via the Ministry of Social Development, Labor and Welfare (SOAW).
This was communicated to the CRU staff yesterday via an internal memo signed by Marcelino de Lannoy, director of Refineria di Kòrsou (RdK). CRU is a subsidiary of government owned RdK, the owner of the refinery's installations and properties.
The hope is still that a new operator will be found before the end of September who will offer the employees a job. But the curtain falls irrevocably for CRU. In the event that no deal is reached with CORC (Curaçao Oil Refinery Complex), 'RdK will continue to take its responsibility to find another operator'. "But that does not alter the fact that CRU will close its doors after September 30, 2021," De Lannoy writes in the memo to CRU staff.
In personnel costs alone, about 3.3 million guilders per month will be saved. Of the more than 900 Isla employees that CRU took over at the end of 2019, about 540 are still on the payroll. The internal memo shows that employees who agree to terminate their employment contract on September 30 will receive an additional two months' salary, including cessantia, as compensation. But those who have not signed the contract by 28 July will receive 'only what the law prescribes and that is a maximum of two weeks' salary'. For this group, CRU will apply for a dismissal permit from the Ministry of SOAW.
In a press release, CRU emphasizes that there was no other option than to stop the activities of the company. The RdK subsidiary has been operating with deep red numbers for more than eighteen months. It is no longer responsible to finance the enormous losses, which is in violation of existing rules and laws. In addition, there is still 'no prospect of an operator taking over the staff'. In other words, “CRU must cease operations because there is no revenue to cover the expenses.”
RdK says it is doing everything it can to be able to sign an agreement with the local private company CORC before the end of September. But both the internal memo and the press release make it clear that the negotiations are not going smoothly.
“The transfer of the refinery and the oil terminal is subject to certain conditions, which CORC has not yet complied with.” This means, for example, that it cannot be demonstrated that there are sufficient funds to start up the refinery.
De Lannoy explains that CORC does not own any money and oil and is dependent on allies for this. “That's the problem. In addition, an environmental permit and other permits must be issued. All things that have not yet been completed.”
Waiting endlessly until everything is in order is not an option. De Lannoy: "Of all the parties and entities involved, RdK is the only one that has to bleed. We pay millions every month to maintain the installations and staff. CORC does not meet the conditions, but it costs them nothing."
Meanwhile, on CORC's side it is disturbingly silent. Both directors, Javier Hernandez and Manoel 'Lito' De Silva De Freitas, have been silent for months. CORC BV was specially established in September 2020 for the operation of the refinery in Curaçao and, according to the trade register of the Chamber of Commerce, its business objective is 'petroleum refinery, trading company, loading, unloading and transshipment company'.