US, EU metals unions call for global steel, aluminum deal that prioritizes workers

The US-based United Steelworkers union and European metals trade union IndustriAll asked US and EU trade representatives Oct. 18 for a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum that ensures workers rights in addition to addressing nonmarket excess capacity and carbon intensity.

In an letter addressed to US trade Representative Katherine Tai and European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, comes ahead of an EU-US summit on Oct. 20 when a new bilateral agreement on sustainable steel and aluminum is expected to be announced.

The US and EU, which have set a deadline of Oct. 31 to reach an agreement, have previously said like-minded economies would be invited to participate in the arrangement.

“Trade unions insist that interested partners should only be able to join the GASSA if they respect international workers’ rights; lowering working standards and conditions to try and remain ‘competitive’ is inexcusable,” the unions said in their letter. “Furthermore, unfair state aid must end, and trade unions insist that aid linked to decarbonization efforts must have social conditionalities and cannot exacerbate global excess capacity.”

The US and EU have the potential to be global leaders in decarbonization efforts in the steel and nonferrous sectors, the unions said.

“However, a successful pathway for the GASSA will require strong and reactive trade defense measures,” they states. “It should encourage global producers to meet or exceed our shared values for a cleaner environment to help fight climate change, as well as respect internationally recognized and democratic labor rights.”

The groups noted a September report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Steel Committee that found global steel production is projected to reach 2.5 billion mt in 2023, with an increase of 56 million mt this year alone, marking the largest annual expansion in a decade.

“The time of cheap steel and nonferrous metals, produced in unfair market conditions, flooding open markets, must end,” the unions said.