French unions rage at Hollande over Mittal deal

Sat Dec 1, 2012 4:31pm EST
 

By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - French trade unions accused President Francois Hollande of betrayal on Saturday after his government backed away from a threat to nationalize ArcelorMittal's Florange steelworks.

The Socialist government said on Friday it had won promises from ArcelorMittal (ISPA.AS: Quote) to avoid forced redundancies and inject 180 million euros to develop the Florange plant, meaning it would no longer have to take over the site.

Hollande came to office promising to create jobs and keep open the two furnaces at the site in northern France which ArcelorMittal says are not viable in a European steel sector suffering over-capacity.

ArcelorMittal confirmed the details of the deal on Saturday, saying it would negotiate a voluntary redundancy deal with unions.

Workers are angry the furnaces will remain idle rather than reopened and expressed doubt over ArcelorMittal's promise to offer alternative posts or early retirement packages for the 630 workers affected.

"We're on a war footing," Edouard Martin, head of union CFDT's Florange chapter, told the commercial i<Tele network.

"We've seen Mr. (Lakshmi) Mittal's pledges in the past and what has become of them - nothing - so we're not going to let anything pass without a fight."

Martin said the union had been a "nightmare" for former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the past over his jobs record, which analysts say was a factor in his election defeat in May, and could soon become one for Hollande.   Continued...

 
French President Francois Hollande jokes with journalists before welcoming European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer