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Four-hour strike at Italian ArcelorMittal sites brings results

26 May, 2020IndustriALL Italian affiliates FIM, FIOM, and UILM declared a four-hour strike at all ArcelorMittal sites in Italy on 25 May. They are calling on the steel manufacturing multinational to urgently disclose its business plan, and engage in meaningful dialogue with the unions to ensure the viability of the plants while keeping jobs and decent working conditions for the entire workforce. Under pressure after the action was announced, representatives of the company and the government joined trade unions at virtual negotiation table.

As part of its support measures, the government publicly confirmed its intention to join the shareholding structure of the company, while in exchange, ArcelorMittal promised to maintain the group's presence in Italy. The CEO confirmed to formally and substantially keep all the commitments undertaken.

The pandemic and the subsequent downturn of demand aggravated the situation of the Italian steel mills, which are strongly dependent on the automotive industry, which is itself going through a very severe crisis itself at the moment. 

The strike became the second large protest since the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. During the first, hundreds of steelworkers rallied on 18 May outside the factory in Genoa protesting against layoffs and furloughs.

According to a statement by FIM-CISL general secretary Marco Bentivogli and national secretary Valerio D’Alò, during the meeting “the government communicated, especially considering the health emergency, that it had made exceptional measures available to the ArcelorMittal Group to enable it to manage the situation.” It was furthermore revealed that “an agreement was allegedly signed on March 4, 2020 and never presented to the trade unions.” 

FIM, FIOM, and UILM urged the government and ArcelorMittal to disclose their plans over the company’s future in Italy. In particular the unions demanded confirmation of the commitments made in the agreement concluded in September 2018, namely a pertinent business plan, consequent investments and corporate structures, employment levels and environmental remediation.

“To mitigate the occupational, economic and social disaster, the government must put in place special legislation for the ex-Ilva workers. It should foresee retirements or other legislative instruments for state-guaranteed employment outplacements. If this intervention is not done, there is a risk of strong social tensions, which we are not in a position to control”, commented UILM secretary general Rocco Palombella in his video conference.

In their turn, Francesca Re David, FIOM-CGIL general secretary and Gianni Venturi, FIOM-CGIL national secretary, and responsible for the steel sector, said, “If these commitments are confirmed, it means that at the end of the period covered by the new business plan, the total number of workers in ArcelorMittal would be 10,700, suggesting the exclusion of the approximately 1,700 workers still in extraordinary administration for whom a social safeguard clause was foreseen in the 2018 agreement.”

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, jointly with Luc Triangle, European Trade Union industriAll general secretary, expressed solidarity with Italian affiliates and supported their demands, saying:

“It is imperative that ArcelorMittal minimize the economic and social impact of this pandemic on workers and their families and communities. The burden of the massive pressure on the steel industry in Europe and particularly in Italy resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic cannot only be carried by the workers.”