ArcelorMittal, by far the world's biggest steel maker, said after a meeting here with European union officials that "it is necessary to continue to suspend and optimize production" in the face of the global economic crisis.
CGT union official Jacques Laplanche said that staff had been told at the meeting that European production would be cut by more than half from the end of April. "Because of the crisis, ArcelorMittal wants to reduce costs and is going to concentrate production on certain sites," Laplanche said.
Furnaces at Liege in Belgium and at Florange in eastern France would be totally halted, he said.
"It is a catastrophe, particularly as management does not say when production will be resumed," Laplanche said.
The company said in a statement: "All production suspensions are temporary and will be reviewed on a regular basis."
Bernard Fontana, an ArcelorMittal executive vice president, said "the steel industry, like many global companies, is suffering the very real repercussions of the global economic slowdown."
"We have moved swiftly to to adapt ourselves to the new economic reality but despite the good progress made, market conditions remain harsh."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009