Asbestos contamination from Salonit-Vranjic, Croatia

The asbestos-containing material producing factory Salonit was closed in 2006. However, only part of its workers managed to receive pension rights and compensation for health impacts cause by occupational exposure to asbestos.


Description
The Salonit Company was a state owned factory located in the Croatian town of Vranjic, near Split - the second largest city of Croatia. The company had been producing construction materials that contained asbestos since the 1920s. By the end of the 1990s, 250 of Salonit’s workers and a few hundred of Vranjić’s citizens were officially diagnosed with asbestos disease (an incurable lung disease). In 1999, the Croatian Government accepted to compensate some sick workers to an extent, but the process was plagued with numerous irregularities. Meanwhile, Vranjic citizens suffering from asbestos disease faced difficulties in getting compensated as the state resolution covered only Salonit’s employees. Due to the long compensation procedure, many of the citizens have died before they could be compensated. In 2006 Salonit was closed and declared bankruptcy, as Croatia adopted the EU decision from 2005 to strictly ban the production, sale and usage of asbestos. However, research into documents from the Customs Authority about the quantities of asbestos products imported into Croatia since the absolute ban of January 2006 show that 11,677 tonnes of asbestos products were imported into Croatia until 2012 (out of that 87% came from the EU). In 2008, the Croatian Government launched a clean-up and sanitation program of asbestos contaminated areas in town of Vranjic, including these three ‘hot spots’: the production building, Marvička kava – the depot for asbestos containing materials from the factory, and the northern part of Vranjic peninsula where large amount of asbestos had been disposed into the sea. Also, it is important to note that some workers had been involved in process of remediation of Salonit but, in 2009, the bankruptcy manager of Salonit company did not renew their working contracts. The workers claimed that this decision was not in line with the guaranties they received from the Prime Minister in relation to their employment on remediation of the factory, and they organised hunger strikes. The clean-up program was done, however according to local organisations provoking even greater ecological damage, as the process did not fully respect EU sanitation norms. The workers and citizens claimed irregularities to the state authorities and demanded justice and compensation. In July 2008, the Social Democratic Party (in opposition in that time) filed a request for criminal charges against top officials in the Ministry of Environment for omissions in the process of disposal of asbestos waste from Salonit. In 2011, representatives of the EU Green Party visited Vranjic on invitation by local ecological NGOs to check the validity of information on the sanitation procedure received from the Croatian Government and were negatively surprised. Thanks to the laws on professional illnesses, 170 of Salonit’s workers (who had working contracts in 2006, when the company filed for bankruptcy) received compensation in 2011. However, the laws do not cover persons with diagnosed asbestos, such as ex-Salonit workers that stopped working before 2006. These people did not receive compensation, nor have they managed to obtain disability pensions. The civil organisations CS ‘Biglovi azbesta’ organised protests to require from the Croatian government to be more efficient in resolving the problems related to sick people's retirement status.
Basic Data
NameAsbestos contamination from Salonit-Vranjic, Croatia
CountryCroatia
ProvinceSplit-Dalmatian County
SiteVranjic
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral processing
Manufacturing activities
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesAsbestos
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBetween 1970 and 1990, the Salonit factory handled up to 25,000 tones of asbestos annually.
Level of Investment (in USD)4,500,000 (costs of clean-up)
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population1,100
Start Date1998
Company Names or State EnterprisesTvornica Salonit from Croatia - The polluter
IGH company, Croatia - Company in charge of the cleanup of the contaminated areas
Relevant government actorsThe Croatian Parliament; The Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection of the Republic of Croatia; The Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning of the Republic of Croatia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersUdruga oboljelih od azbestoze, Vranjic; Udruga Barbarinac http://www.poslovna.hr/lite/subjekti.aspx?show=599906&&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1; Eko Kvarner http://www.ekokvarner.hr; Udruga ‘Biglovi azbesta’
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBoycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
OtherIn April 2007, the concentration of asbestos in the air was three times higher than allowed. Citizents of Vranjic were not informed.
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Infectious diseases, Accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
OtherAsbestos disease, lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of AlternativesThe impacted stakeholders including former employees, citizens and NGOs demand clean-up of the location contaminated by asbestos in accordance to EU regulations, as well as compensation and resolving the retirement status of sick workers.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Many citizens of Vranjic claimed that cleanup and sanitation of contaminated areas had not been done correctly. Independent studies show that high presence of asbestos in the air continues. Furthermore, the compensation and retirement status of former employees is not resolved.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Rješenje o neprihvaćanju prijedloga za pokretanje postupka za ocjenu saglasnosti s Ustavom Zakona o obeštećenju radnika trgovačkog društva Salonit d.d. u stečaju Vranjic ("Narodne novine" broj 84/11).
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ILO website
Observation (CEACR) - adopted 2015, published 105th ILC session (2016)
Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162) - Croatia (Ratification: 1991)
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References

Incidence and prevalence of asbestos-related diseases in Croatia
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Increasing of malignant pleural mesothelioma: burning issue in Split-Dalmatian County, Croatia.
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Links

EU Countries Sell Banned Asbestos to Croatia
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Azbest iz Vranjica ubija Split i Brač
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Vranjic se guši u azbestu
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Salonit: Mladineo nije uspio, radnici nastavljaju štrajk glađu
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Facts on Asbestos in Croatia
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Zeleni iz Europe o sanaciji azbesta u Vranjicu: Ovako nešto sam očekivao u Sibiru, a ne u Hrvatskoj...
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Vranjic: Alarmantno stanje zbog azbesta
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Započela sanacija azbesta na nogometnom igralištu u Vranjicu
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'Radnici Salonita opet su izigrani, mafija ima svoju državu'
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VIDEO, FOTO: Radnici Salonita 'polugom pravde' razvalili ulaz i zauzeli tvornicu
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ZABORAVLJENI AZBESTAŠI
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Zašto svi oboljeli od azbestoze nisu jednaki? "Zakon štiti samo povlaštenu skupinu ljudi!"
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Media Links

Azbest: Tihi ubojica
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Name of people who dieded and suffer of the ‘asbestos desies’
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Sanacija azbesta u Vranjicu
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Štetno djelovanje tvornice Salonit u Vranjicu
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IZVJEŠĆE O PROVEDBI I. FAZE SANACIJE TVORNICE SALONIT D.D
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Other Documents

The protest of the former employees and citizens of Vranjic against Salonit company The signs read “Asbestos is still killing” and “The Government is responsible”
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Asbestos depot in Salonit factory Building materials containing asbestos stored in the depot of Salonit company in Vranjic
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update05/05/2016
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