Thursday Di Rupo had just tweeted that Belgium was back on track when steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal announced unexpected, that it would shut down six cold-processing facilities in the Liege region of eastern Belgium, eliminating 1,300 jobs, infuriating the prime minister and triggering a strike call by trades unions.
At the same time German MEP Bernd Lange was talking with representatives of the work
council of ArcelorMittal in Bremen about the future of the steel industry.
Belgian MEP Frédéric Daerden went to Liège primarily in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the workers of ArcelorMittal which is actually organising the destruction of this industry not only in Belgium but also in France and elsewhere. “Thousands of jobs are at risk in Europe. Up against these multinationals, the only possible response must be carried out at European level.” he said.
We can wonder if Lakshmi Mittal still remembers his background or perhaps should question if he did not become so rich because he went over corpses. clearly he does not pull at the same rope as those who want to provide a decent family income and good family life.
Di Rupo wasn’t able to convince Mittal to go back on the decision, saying only “we agreed that we should continue talking.”
Di Rupo said he also urged that the government of the Wallonia region be given a chance to find buyers for the facilities, without saying if the head of the world’s largest steel company had agreed.
“I reckon we’re dead” and “it’s finished,” said angry workers as they left an emergency meeting of union delegates who blamed local management.
After the closure of Ford Genk Belgium faces again a job opportunity drama.
The steel group said that it “recognises that this proposal will be very difficult for the local community as it affects approximately 1,300 people. It is committed to finding a socially acceptable solution for all those affected.”
ArcelorMittal recalled that it had announced some cutbacks at its Liege facilities in October 2011 to deal with “structural over-capacity in Northern Europe.”
The government had provide several measures which should have attracted the company continuing to provide work in the Walloon region. Once again the money invested by the government, read taxpayer, was only used to fill the pockets of those in charge of the giant, without any respect for the hard labourers.
It is true that we have to face a market which has worsened, with key automakers announcing major restructuring plans and cutbacks but we wonder if the quality workers their flexibility would not have been sufficient to cover up the period.
Planned car plant closures, also including Opel in Bochum , have convinced ArcelorMittal that European steel demand will not return to pre-crisis levels.
The company said that despite the closure of the blast furnaces, the Liege facility had reported an underlying loss of more than 200 million euros ($266.0 million) for the nine first months of 2012 and warned that no improvement was in sight this year. But what did they do with the high wages of the CEO’s and others in charge in Belgium and abroad?
The economic situation has further deteriorated but was it really to the extent that the proposal of further closures at Liege has become necessary.
“We recognise that this is a very difficult announcement for the employees at Liege, particularly coming so soon after the closure of the primary phase.” ArcelorMittal announced.
“We had hoped that that closure would be adequate in terms of adapting to the reduced demand but given the continued lack of orders and overall weakness in the European economy, it has become increasingly apparent that further action is required if we are to stem the continued losses that the plant is reporting and return it to a sustainable basis.”
The newly-installed head of Belgium’s French-speaking Socialist Party, Paul Magnette, said the closures resulted from “cynicism and cowardice” that betrayed “contempt and hypocrisy” on the part of ArcelorMittal executives.
He added that the decision meant months in which potential takeovers could have been explored had been wasted.
We should also question if Mittal was ever willing to invest in a future for Belgium and his empire. I am sure he clearly knows that innovation is a key driver for sustainable growth. But when you look at the factory we can not see much innovation over there.
The government should look with the European Union to see how they can handle such “men on the top” so that they respect the people who work for them and do not use the state funding just to fill their pockets instead of bringing it into the credit of the employed.
Enhanced efforts are needed if Europe wants to keep up a leadership role in innovation.
The transition to sustainable societies needs innovation not only in research and industry, technology and products but in all economic sectors, including agriculture and services, in labour relations, business practices and consumption patterns and life-styles. In short, boosting innovation needs a coherent, holistic European approach. But the individual states and the European government should take care that their money shall be used properly to help the workers, from bottom to top of the local factories.
As the EU states: Technological innovation needs an integrated bottom-up approach including all stakeholders from the innovation chain, such as European Technology
Platforms and public-private partnership, and bridging the gap between scientific research and the practical introduction of innovative products and services on the market. Specific attention needs to be paid to the integration of innovative SMEs and micro-enterprises into R & I schemes.
Large-scale innovation processes have to be accompanied by a broad social and civil society dialogue and appropriate support, vocational training and re-training throughout professional life in order to ensure consensus and acceptance.
The role of the EESC, of national Economic and Social Councils and organised civil society in general must be brought more forcefully to bear in this “big debate”, this “new deal” for Europe.
There is impatience and frustration about the policy responses given so far by the EU, which have been perceived as too little too late, leading to a potential crisis of confidence. The breathing space that has been created by the June 2012 summit and the ECB announcement must be used. Progress has been made towards breaking the vicious circle between weak banks and sovereign debt, creating a single supervisory mechanism for the financial sector, allowing the European Central Bank to buy bonds of ailing euro-zone countries and towards mobilising a EUR 120 billion «growth compact».
However, the fundamental problem is as much political as economic. A comprehensive, not piecemeal, approach for sustainable growth and employment can only be secured through:
− an Economic Union, including a financial and banking union, with a common deposit guarantee scheme, a common resolution fund and EU-wide supervision, and a fiscal union, based on joint debt instruments;
− a Social Union, with stronger respect and support for fundamental rights;
− a Political Union, with new levels of democratic responsibility and accountability, especially involving the democratically elected European Parliament, which should be able to exercise the right of initiative.
The European Economic and Social Committee has a good proposal concerning the pooling of risks and benefits is logically commensurate with the pooling of budgetary decisions, including strengthening the revenues of member states, including new budget resources and measures against tax evasion.
All the small countries in Europe should take distance of their little back-garden and should go together to make something of their European Park. Yes they should think more of not “My country” but “My Europe” and work on «More Europe», which is mutually reinforcing and stronger than the sum of its parts, which is «smarter» than separate, asymmetric policies that cost more and may undermine each other and the Union as a whole.
Though it may be difficult for many to understand that in those difficult economic times we must invest to go forward. There is no sustainable future without a sustainable budget. The «juste retour» concept, which undermines solidarity and mutual benefit, must be abandoned. The EU Budget must be strengthened and supported by own resource mechanisms, a single and unified cohesion policy actively involving civil society and with funding more focused on real sustainable results, a more interventionist role for the European Investment Bank and more recourse to public-private partnerships and project
bonds for growth, jobs and the reduction of poverty. Credibility, flexibility and coherent development potential are key to attracting more private investment.
The EIB can help to unlock structural funds in case of problems with co-financing.
The project bond initiative now coming into operation must run well (for example in energy and infrastructure development) and assure that we simply do not mutualise losses and privatise benefits. Macroeconomic conditionality should not apply to cohesion policy.
All the countries in the European Union should provide safety-nets so that big companies can not suck out the marrow of the population who is willing to work for that company, nor can drain the country of it resources and then back off leaving all the scrapheap behind. The European Union should take very severe sanctions when companies will not honour their commitments. They should not walk away with it, like Renault, Volkswagen/Audi, Opel, Ford and now ArcelorMittal have done, just to call those of the metal industry.
What is going to happen with the building-site and adjacent grounds? Is Lakshmi Mittal going to sanitise the ground?
ArcelorMittal to Close Parts of Belgium Plant
ArcelorMittal said there was “insufficient demand to support the running of these flexible facilities and no improvement is seen over the medium term.” European steel demand, it said, is 29 percent below the levels of before the global financial crisis.
- Lakshmi Mittal Uses Blackmail and Lies (indiatimes.com)
France’s minister for industrial recovery has accused ArcelorMittal boss Lakshmi Mittal of “blackmail” and “lies”, after the giant steelmaker said it would close six facilities in neighbouring Belgium.
Arnaud Montebourg said: “I have to tell you that when he (Lakshmi Mittal) uses blackmail, lies … that is what is happening in Belgium since he has announced that in the end he will not honour his commitments.”
- Belgian steel workers clash with police over job losses (independent.ie)
Masked protesters threw broken paving stones at police who were barricading a street leading to the residence of Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. Traffic in much of central Brussels was paralysed.
- Arcelor steel workers clash with riot police in Brussels (theglobeandmail.com)
Video: Italy steel workers protest possible plant closure
- France or Mittal, who will blink first? (thehindu.com)
Following President Francois Hollande’s face-off with steel baron Lakshmi Mittal in Paris on Tuesday, the countdown to Saturday’s deadline that will seal the fate of the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Florange, northeastern France, has begun.
- Arcelor Mittal : affrontements à Liège – 25 janvier 2013 (berthoalain.com)
- ArcelorMittal cuts 1,300 Belgian jobs, unions call strike (thenewstribe.com)