Job cuts in distressed economy pit Hollande against ArcelorMittal
“We don't want Mittal in France because they haven’t respected France,” industry minister Arnaud Montebourg said in an interview published this week in the daily Les Échos, unable to conceal his frustration over the company’s plan to scale back one of its three major French factories and eliminate hundreds of jobs. He called for “temporary nationalisation” and resale of the steel plant at Florange, in the eastern region of Lorraine.
The ugly dispute pits the French state, in its traditional role as defender of industry, against a company that is trying to reduce capacity in line with the slowdown in the European economy and to cut its $23-billion debt after Moody’s cut its credit rating to junk. The company wants to close two mothballed blast furnaces at the Florange plant, cutting 629 jobs, while continuing to operate a part of the facility that processes steel for the car industry. Currently, the facility as a whole employs 2,700 people. In all, ArcelorMittal employs about 20,000 people in France.
With unemployment hovering above 10%, the Socialist government of President François Hollande is desperate to avoid more layoffs by name-brand companies. Several big employers, including PSA Peugeot Citroën, Air France and Sanofi, have announced big
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