French unions protest against Aperam’s job cuts

French unions CGT- CFDT are protesting against a restructuring plan at French stainless steelmaker Aperam’s Gueugnon site. According to the unions, the plan concerns 110 job redundancies at the site and 70 at the Pont de Roide facility. Part of the production process will be moved to Aperam’s facilities at Genk in Belgium, Kallanish learns from a member of the unions

Despite Aperam announcing it will invest €33 million ($39) in the Gueugnon facility, workers are urging the company to double the figure to guarantee the development of the French sites and employment. “The position of Aperam is contradictory. They want to invest in Gueugnon but at the same time they are planning to increase production in Belgium to the detriment of French activities and planning job cuts when the European stainless steel market has never been so profitable,” the source says. He adds that the decision may spring from geopolitical strategy and the need to relaunch Aperam’s output in Belgium.

In a note sent to Kallanish, the unions denounce a lack of investment in the French ArcelorMittal sites. They also accuse the company of pursuing a delocalisation strategy to grow in emerging markets such as India and China, while at the same time taking French taxpayers’ money for decarbonisation and digitisation. The unions ask the government to cut financial support for steelmakers which pay out large dividends. The note also labels government support for Liberty Steel, part of GFG Alliance, a “fiasco,” adding that a new buyer for its sites at Hayange and Ascoval may have to be found. The Ministry of Finance “handed over the keys to these two sites last summer to Liberty, despite warnings, in France and in Europe, of the financial opacity concerning GFG and therefore of proven risks of the group’s insolvency,” the note concludes.

At the moment the stainless steel market in Europe is enjoying booming demand, particularly for flat products. Long lead-times and surging prices are the results of short stainless coil supply as the entire value chain is registering strong margin increases (see Kallanish passim). Solicited by Kallanish, Aperam did not respond before press deadline.

Natalia Capra France