Steelmaker ArcelorMittal Italia had to take off line blast furnaces two and four at its Taranto steelworks in quick time yesterday, after unions called a strike because of a worker falling into the sea.
There were not enough staff to securely operate the machinery because of the industrial action, called after high winds toppled the crane, dislodging the worker.
But unions are said to have called off the strike and are returning to work, so furnaces two and four will be restarted “very quickly”.
While ArcelorMittal Italia’s current issues have attracted significant press attention — from the company’s talks with the government over the Crescita Law to a judge ordering the closure of blast furnace two — the impact on the staggeringly weak European market has been very limited.
Mills are on very short lead times so buyers are content to hold back and not rush to procure, despite signals from some producers that they will seek increases for September after the summer holiday period.
The Argus daily Italian hot-rolled coil index was flat at €456.25/t yesterday, at a €19/t discount to the northwest EU index. The discount for Italian origin coil shrank to as little as €4/t a month ago, when German mills were selling to Italy, a reversal of the typical flow. Italian mills had reacted to rises in import costs and secured increases more quickly than their northern counterparts, after announcements of production cuts and price increases.
Since then the northwest market has been fairly steady, at low levels, while Italian mills have had to reduce prices because of low lead times and anaemic demand.