Belgian police, Mittal workers clash at PM's quarters

25th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

Belgian police fired water cannon and pepper spray Friday at ArcelorMittal steelworkers protesting outside Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo's official residence ahead of crisis talks on a big wave of job cuts.

Several hundred workers, angered by the steel giant's decision to close a string of Belgian plants and make 1,300 workers redundant, hurled firecrackers, rocks and bottles at officers struggling to keep barriers in place, an AFP correspondent said.

Federal and regional politicians were meeting with unions seeking solutions to save jobs, and union representative Egedio di Pansilo called for the facilities to be nationalised.

"The authorities must take over Mittal's interests here," he said. "If they don't want to, we don't care ... Nationalisation is a word that scares them, but it's what they must do."

The head of the regional government where the plants lie, Socialist Rudy Demotte, said the authorities "could envisage anything that is within our financial and judicial means," talking of an "industrial (regeneration) plan" initially.

The global steel giant is shutting down six cold-processing facilities in the Liege region of eastern Belgium.

Already on Thursday, workers burned tyres and wooden palettes outside one of the plant headquarters, and unions called for a general strike at sites still open.

ArcelorMittal, already embroiled in controversy in France over the closure of two blast furnaces, blamed weak demand for cars and cutbacks in auto plants for the fall in demand for steel.

Di Rupo on Thursday conveyed his "incomprehension" to the steel tycoon head of the global group, Lakshmi Mittal, during a meeting of world economic leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

© 2013 AFP

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