Hundreds of workers occupied Monday the factory of ArcelorMittal in Florange in the north of France after it was announced that the temporary closure would be prolonged for a further three months.
The workers entered the steel factory shouting ‘Mittal, we want to work’.
‘We won’t leave the factory until the furnaces are started again,’ said a CFDT union representative, Eduoard Martin. For the unions, the management’s decision to suspend operations was the ‘planned death of the plant’, which employs 5,000 workers.
The global leader in steelmaking has recently closed its plants in Liege, Belgium and Madrid. It has claimed the closure of Florange is only temporary and down to insufficient demand, as austerity policies across the Continent hit home.
The plant is also the last in what was once a thriving steel region after the ArcelorMittal mill of Gandrange was shut, despite promises in 2008 by President Nicolas Sarkozy that he would keep it going.
France’s industrial meltdown is a key theme in the country’s Presidential election.
More than three quarter of million jobs have been lost in manufacturing in the last ten years and 355,000 thousand since Sarkozy was elected in 2007.
Sarkozy is trailing the Socialists’ Francois Hollande in the opinion polls, and is also being challenged on the far right by Marine Le Pen, and the radical left by Jean Luc Melechon of the Left Front.