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INDUSTRY & TRADE

French minister attacks steel tycoon, again

France's minister for industrial recovery has accused ArcelorMittal boss Lakshmi Mittal of "blackmail" and "lies", after the giant steelmaker said it would close six facilities in neighbouring Belgium.

Speaking late Thursday on France 2 television, Arnaud Montebourg said: "I have to tell you that when he (Lakshmi Mittal) uses blackmail, lies … that is what is happening in Belgium since he has announced that in the end he will not honour his commitments."

Blaming weak demand for cars, ArcelorMittal said it would close six cold-processing facilities in the Liege region of eastern Belgium, eliminating 1,300 jobs. Angry employees burned tyres at the news while trade unions called immediately for a strike.

The company was already embroiled in controversy in France over the closure of two blast furnaces that sent tension between Mittal and members of France's government soaring in late November.

Montebourg, regarded as a protectionist by critics, told a French newspaper then: "We don't want Mittal in France anymore", before later retracting his comments.

But on Thursday the minister said his remarks about the Indian-born steel tycoon were nonetheless widely understood and "were thus possibly necessary."

Montebourg urged the European Commission to look into ArcelorMittal's decision to close the Belgian sites.

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INDUSTRY & TRADE

After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France… GE set to cut 1,044

US industrial conglomerate General Electric said on Tuesday that it would cut more than 1,000 jobs, mainly at its gas turbine operations in eastern France, part of a wave of European layoffs as it tries to stem losses in its power generation business.

After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France... GE set to cut 1,044
Photo: AFP
The 1,044 job cuts, long feared by unions, could become a political challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who assured local officials this month that the government was following the matter with “the utmost vigilance”.
   
The cuts will be made mainly in Belfort, eastern France, the European headquarters for GE Energy, and in the Paris region, the company said in a statement.
   
“More than half the number of employees in the gas activities… are going to lose their jobs,” the mayor of Belfort, Damien Meslot, and other local officials said in a statement.
   
They warned of “a new hardship” for the region, which has been hit hard by the decline of mining and heavy industry over the past decades.
 
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US giant GE to pay France €50 million after creating just 25 jobs out of 1,000Photo: AFP

Overall, GE employs nearly 4,000 people in Belfort, including 1,900 in its gas turbine operations.   

The company has struggled for years with slumping demand for its gas turbines because of low oil and gas prices, and the power operations were a key factor in its massive annual loss of $22.8 billion last year.
   
In 2015 GE announced 6,500 job cuts across Europe, and two years later it revealed a further 12,000 cuts.
 
That prompted France to fine the company €50 million earlier this year, since GE had promised to create at least 1,000 new jobs when it announced the purchase of the power businesses from France's Alstom in 2014.
 
Shortly after closing that deal, GE unveiled a series of job cuts across Europe as slumping oil and gas prices crimped demand for its heavy-duty turbines and other equipment.
 
The company had already warned last year that it wouldn't meet the target, though the new CEO Larry Culp confirmed in October that GE would “fulfil its commitments.”
 
It had promised to pay €50,000 for every job not created over the three-year period.
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