EU ministers to raise alarm on ArcelorMittal lay-offs
Government ministers from Belgium, France and Luxembourg will jointly raise the alarm over steel giant ArcelorMittal's lay-offs at talks with the European Commission on February 12.
The talks will be held less than a week after a planned protest by workers from the three countries in Strasbourg on February 6, and also as other European Union ministers descend on Brussels for a conference on whether steel-making has a future in Europe.
The EU's industry and social affairs commissioners, Antonio Tajani and Laszlo Andor, are expected to issue a statement following the talks with ministers Jean-Claude Marcourt, Arnaud Montebourg and Etienne Schneider, from Belgium, France and Luxembourg.
ArcelorMittal is shutting down six cold-processing facilities in the Liege region of eastern Belgium, blaming weak demand for cars and cutbacks in auto plants for the fall in demand for steel. Some 1,300 jobs are at stake.
The company is also embroiled in controversy in France over the closure of blast furnaces at Florange, and in Luxembourg has temporarily closed a blast furnace at Schifflange and cut production at Rodange.
ArcelorMittal is the leading supplier of steel products in all major markets including automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging. It operates in 60 countries and employs about 260,000 people worldwide.
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said the three countries called for the EU commissioner's help "to urge him to develop a more firm European industrial policy, not only in the steel-making but in auto-making and other industrial sectors."
The Luxembourg government said that in a letter to the commissioner the three ministers had asked him to invite Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal to Brussels to outline his stand.
In Belgium, in an echo of other once-powerhouse industries such as coal and shipbuilding, the numbers employed in the steel business collapsed from some 34,000 in 1981 to under 10,000 this year.
© 2013 AFP