ArcelorMittal Italia workers in Taranto plan strike over lack of clarity on future

ArcelorMittal Italia workers based in Taranto are planning to go on strike Sept. 24 as they want clarity about their future after production was halted across most of the Puglia-based site, union representatives told S&P Global Platts Sept. 22.

Since Sept. 21, the mill has suspended output from most of the cold-end units, while in the hot-end part, the company has reduced already low crude steel output even more, it said. At two of the four blast furnaces — No. 1 and No. 4 — daily production was cut 200 mt to 7,300 mt, its lowest ever.

In the cold-end part, the No. 1 galvanized line and the No. 1 cold rolling mill stopped production on Sept. 21, while at the No. 2 train mill, daily sheet production was cut to 15 from 21.

With these lines off, “we can basically say that the entire cold-end line is temporarily shut down, with the exception of rolling mill No. 1 and melting shop No. 2. According to ArcelorMittal, this is due to low demand while we think it is more of a political issue as demand for coils is picking up,” a union source said.

Union sources also said that since Sept. 14, 600 workers have been furloughed under a coronavirus-related scheme, making the total number of ArcelorMittal Italia employees furloughed 5,600. Around 8,000 workers are employed at the Taranto site.

Italian minister for economic development, Stefano Patuanelli, said Sept. 22 he was ready to meet the unions at their request.

Union representatives said the strike will be confirmed depending on the outcome of the talks, but they are still continuing to plan it.

On Sept. 21, the governor of the Puglia region, Michele Emiliano, was re-elected, a result that could be another reason, according to some industry sources, for the exit of ArcelorMittal from its purchase of Ilva as the relationship between the two was never good.

ArcelorMittal has an option to withdraw from the troubled plant in November. If it does, it could threaten the survival of the Taranto plant.

ArcelorMittal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Annalisa Villa