Florange: About 300 angry French steel workers burst into a union-management meeting on Thursday at steel giant ArcelorMittal protesting at a decision by the group to further slash output across Europe.
ArcelorMittal called off the emergency works council meeting at its factory in Florange in eastern France, where furnaces are to be halted over the coming months, after workers forced their way in.
Florange is one of two plants, along with Liege in Belgium, set to grind to a temporary halt under the output cuts announced on Wednesday.
Unions said 1,000 of the plant’s 2,600 staff were to be put on enforced leave from mid-April, for between five and 18 months.
Protesting staff had gathered outside the factory to demand a date for the resumption of output.
Hard hit by the economic crisis, the world’s biggest steel maker announced on Wednesday that it would continue to slash production in Europe.
A union official said staff had been told that European production would be cut by more than half from the end of April.
ArcelorMittal had already announced a wave of production and job cuts worldwide, after reporting an operating loss of $3.5 billion (€2.7 billion) for the last quarter of 2008.
Saddled with $26.5 billion of debt at the end of 2008, the group is cutting 9,000 jobs or 3% of its global workforce, through volantary redundancies, and has warned that more layoffs could be necessary.
ArcelorMittal is by far the biggest steel group in the world. It was formed of a takeover of European giant Arcelor, a conglomerate of former European national steel companies, by relative newcomer Mittal with roots in Asia.
The takeover occurred just as global demand for steel was booming, largely because of a surge in demand from emerging economies led by China. But the global economic crisis has cut deeply into demand, notably from the stricken auto sector.