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ArcelorMittal faces union action in Europe

26 March, 2013ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, is facing a turbulent time in the months to come. Unions across Europe are planning a day of action on 4 April under the banner of IndustriAll Europe.

The day of action will highlight the need to maintain a vibrant steel industry with a long-term future in Europe, rather than the continuation of an approach that will see the industry decline through lack of investment.

IndustriAll European Trade Union argues that the weakening of the industrial base of Europe’s leading steelmaker is resulting in a major retreat by the group on the European market compared to its competitors. The trade unions fear that if it continues along this path, it runs the risk of not being able to respond when demand for steel recovers.

Europe is facing tough economic conditions and many manufacturers are struggling to stay afloat. In the medium- and long-term its vitally important that production facilities will need to be more innovative and adapt to the pressures of global competition, but this can only happen if they survive through this period of acute pain.

Since the global financial crisis hit the steel industry there has been a crisis of demand and this is set to continue. The growth in global steel demand is expected to be slower in the coming decade than the previous 10 years, but longer-term prospects are nevertheless favourable according to Industry and Government officials at the OECD Steel Committee meeting held in Paris 6 and 7 December 2012.

If ArcelorMittal management can also take a longer-term view this would be a tremendous boost for their employees. But unions believe the company is failing to get the most out of its ideas and intellectual property because of insecurity. ArcelorMittal assets in Europe can be world class. But first they need to be coupled with world-class research, innovation, and a highly skilled workforce. All of these ingredients should lead to a world class manufacturing business.

Put simply, during this period of slow demand all stakeholders must develop a long-term industrial policy, which recognizes the importance of employment stability at its heart. A failure to maintain facilities will make Europe poorer and rob nations of the potentially huge benefits that stable employment brings.

Rob Johnston, Executive Director of IndustriALL Global Union, believes, “nobody doubts the economic pressure ArcelorMittal is under in Europe, but the company as a whole has a responsibility to its workers. If the company can show faith now in the long-term it will reap far greater benefits than a short-term fix of closing facilities and damaging communities.”