PARIS (AP) - France’s prime minister announced on Friday that there would be
no layoffs at a blast furnace site that has become a symbol for maintaining
jobs in a tough economic climate. Instead, steel company ArcelorMittal has
promised a $233.75 million investment and the government will modernize it
with an eco-friendly project.
The announcement by Jean-Marc Ayrault caps months of tension over the future
of the site at Florange where the jobs of more than 600 people were at
The prime minister put to rest rumors the government would nationalize the
site. Instead, he said in a televised announcement that ArcelorMittal had
made an “unconditional” agreement to invest and that the government would
keep watch for “non-respect” of the agreement.
Unions were skeptical and the mayor of Florange cautious.
The plan, which calls for an investment by ArcelorMittal of ?180 million
over five years, “has positive points if they are kept,” Mayor Philippe
Tarillon said on BFM television. But he expressed regret that the accord
“rests on the commitments of Mr. Mittal.”
Unions expressed outright skepticism, saying that the deal means they remain
“in the claws of Mittal.”
Edouard Martin of the CFDT union listed a series of demands, including
guarantees the funds will be injected into the site with an oversight
committee that includes employees. The five-year plan renders the commitment
more fragile still, he said.
The company, assembled by Indian-born Chairman and CEO Lakshmi N. Mittal,
one of the world’s richest people, infuriated many with its announcement
Oct. 1 that it planned to stop the Florange furnaces.
In the face of worker protests the firm gave the government 60 days to find
a new owner.
ArcelorMittal has more than 20,000 employees at about 150 sites in France.
Florange has not showed a loss, but hasn’t performed like other
The Florange blast furnaces will be maintained, but not running in the
short-term, Ayrault said, announcing a plan to develop a European gas
recycling project that would give Florange, and ultimately the industry, a
competitive edge. The European Ulcos project is a demonstrator for recycling
blast furnace gases and capturing CO2.
The prime minister said the priority project represents industrial and