ArcelorMittal Spain restarts long steel production at Gijon

ArcelorMittal’s Spanish subsidiary has restarted long steel production at its Gijon plant in Spain after strike action was called off, the company said Dec. 10.

Talks with unions over a productivity plan for the site, which has a capacity of 900,000 mt/year, were ongoing, it said.

A lockout was called by ArcelorMittal as response to a strike by workers which left it unable to safely continue production to the required standard, it said Dec. 3, halting production of steel rails and rods.

Workers from two unions had called an intermittent strike on Nov. 25 in protest at a proposed new productivity plan which would potentially include 44 job losses. The action involved two-hour strikes divided between the start and end of each shift.

Local daily La Nueva Espana reported Dec. 8 that the proposed job losses had been put on hold as part of the discussions to restart production.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company applied for temporary lay-offs for its entire Spanish workforce, numbering more than 8,000 workers.

However, the country’s National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) overturned the company’s lay-off application on Dec.2.

ArcelorMittal in Spain told S&P Global Dec. 4 it disagreed and will appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo.)

Despite a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions from October, the company’s other plants in Spain were generally operating normally, albeit with reduced demand and with the exception of one sinter, which is currently offline.

ArcelorMittal’s two furnaces, with a combined capacity of 5 million mt/yr are still in operation site as is the sheet steel production site at Aviles and the coking batteries.

The 2.7 million mt/year A furnace was halted in April amid low demand but then restarted on Oct. 26 to cover production while its Gent, Belgium smelter is being remodeled, although the Gent smelter is due to restart in January, according to the company.

At the low point, the mills were running at about half of capacity, amid a 25% slump in steel demand across the sector. ArcelorMittal’s output is seen around 40% below 2019’s.

A recent recovery has been tempered by news of some temporary closures at auto sites belonging to Ford and Volkswagen, which directly affect ArcelorMittal’s Asturias production.

— Annalisa Villa, Gianluca Baratti