7,200 ArcelorMittal Workers Go on Strike in Algeria

Protesting the company's refusal to renovate the coking plant

Led by the main union at the plant at the ArcelorMittal steel factory near Annaba in eastern Algeria, some 7,200 workers launched an open-ended strike, union leader Smain Kouadria said.

"The complex is completely paralyzed," Kouadria said. "The workers are gathered outside the management offices."

Kouadria said the strike began because of the management's refusal to renovate the coking plant at the factory at El-Hadjar, which the union saw as reneging on a decision made last October. "The top management has informed us that the renovation of the coking plant is not a priority," Kouadria said.

Last October, the management of the factory decided to shut down the coking plant, which is more than 30 years old, for a year, estimating that this was how long it would take to renovate the facility. Then they abandoned the project, according to Kouadria.

Management was not immediately available for comment.

The El-Hadjar plant, a subsidiary of the world steel giant ArcelorMittal, employs about 7,200 people and produced 750,000 tons of steel in 2009, according to its managing director Vincent Le Gouic.

Formerly the property of the Algerian state, the steel plant was privatized more than eight years ago. In October 2001, 70% of the shares in the firm were bought by the Indian company Ispat, a member of the Mittal group.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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