BRUSSELS — ArcelorMittal (IW 1000/35) on Tuesday pledged to suspend closures and job cuts in Europe pending the launch of a pan-Europe plan in June to save the struggling steel industry, the EU said.
EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani quoted a letter just received from the global steel giant as saying "there will be no more cuts" at its plants in Europe that employ 98,000 people until the launch of the plan.
The EU executive last week asked ArcelorMittal to suspend the closure of several sites pending the plan but the company initially declined.
The steel group's decision to shutter plants in Belgium, Luxembourg and France triggered violent protests as well as moves by EU nations to band together to save an industry that was at the heart of the creation of the bloc.
"There is no Europe without steel," Tajani said.
He said ArcelorMittal had pledged in its letter to keep the French site of Florange and the Belgian site of Liege open but would cut back capacity.
At the same time, the company agreed to invest 180 million euros (US $240 million) in the French site and 140 million euros in Belgium to produce cutting edge products for the auto and packaging sector.
It also said workers who were made redundant would be given jobs at other plants in Belgium and France.
Tajani has said steel-making must be maintained in Europe not only to save jobs but also to contribute to the green economy in sectors such as clean energy vehicles, renewable energy and recycling facilities.
The steel industry accounts for some 360,000 jobs at about 500 plants in the EU but production slumped from 22% of world output to 12% between 2001 and 2011.
ArcelorMittal earlier announced the closure of six cold-processing facilities in the Liege region of eastern Belgium, blaming weak demand for cars and cutbacks in auto plants. Some 1,300 jobs are at stake.
The company is also embroiled in controversy in France over the closure of blast furnaces at Florange. In Luxembourg, the company has temporarily closed a blast furnace at Schifflange and cut production at Rodange.
ArcelorMittal is the leading supplier of steel products in all major markets including automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging. It operates in 60 countries and employs about 260,000 people worldwide.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013