BRUSSELS (AP) -
The world’s leading steel and mining company ArcelorMittal said Thursday it
will close a coke plant and six production lines in Belgium, in a move that
threatens 1,300 jobs.
The company said
collapsing demand for steel and structural overcapacity in the sector have
forced it to take the measures in eastern Liege, which has had a steel
industry going back two centuries.
Liege CEO Bernard Dehut said lack of orders and an ailing European economy
have made it “increasingly apparent that further action is required” in
order to stem the continued losses in Liege.
closures, the company said it will be operating five steel production lines
which will employ 800 people.
socialist union said the move, if fully enacted, would reduce employment in
the sector to some 900 workers in what was once a main steel hub with over
30,000 steel workers in the 1970s. By 2005, that total had already shrunk to
“The workers are
under shock,” said FGTB steel leader Robert Rouzeeuw. “We will have to pull
ourselves together. We need to see how the politicians will react.”
Minister Elio Di Rupo immediately announced he would seek a meeting with
Lakshmi Mittal, the head of the steel group since both were attending the
World Economic Forum in Davos.
And instead of
traveling on to a summit meeting in Latin America, Di Rupo said he would
return to Belgium to assess the situation in Liege.
Over the last
few decades, one of the main industries that powered Europe’s industrial
revolution has suffered from waning demand across the continent - Arcelor
says steel demand in Europe is 29 percent down from before the three-year
crisis - and growing competition from around the world.
The workers hope
that the government will intervene to save jobs.
“It hurts so bad
that we are wondering if this is true or a nightmare,” said Fabrizio
Corronas, who has been working for 16 years at ArcelorMittal in Liege.
“I hope the
politicians will intervene.”