Lay-offs seem inevitable in Liège, where Liberty Steel owns several steel sites, notably in Flémalle and Tilleur. The steel group has presented a restructuring plan that aims to maintain the Galva 4 line and the tinplate plant. This plan will see the galvanisation line 4 at Flémalle being kept in good condition without being used as this would require too much investment. As a result, 153 workers out of a total of 690 working for Liberty Steel in the Liège region, will have to leave the company.
The Dudelange steel plant is linked with Liège under the Liberty Steel causing concern over the future of the Luxembourg site.
“For the moment, we are told that there will be no consequences for Dudelange. But with a Belgian social plan affecting 153 workers, we can ask questions, particularly about the financing of such a plan,” said Robert Fornieri of the LECGB labour union. The trade unionist, who is due to meet with Liberty Steel's management at the beginning of next week, fears that the partial Liège closure will impact supply of material at Dudelange.
The Dudelange site is still idling with 80 to 90 people working reduced hours, a little less than half the total workforce. "It is almost a ghost factory. Stocks and activity are at their lowest,” Fornieri said.
October restart postponed
At the end of June, Liberty Steel had announced a major reorganisation of its European operations with the aim of optimising operational integration between three steel sites, namely Liège-Dudelange, Magona in Italy and Galati in Romania.
Galati, the largest integrated steel mill in Romania, was to become, on paper, the main supplier of hot-rolled coils to the downstream companies of Liberty Steel's sites in order to ensure "a secure and sustainable supply of their raw material,” according to the group's communication.
At the beginning of August, Liberty Magona was able to restart its activities thanks to receiving hot-rolled coils from Liberty Galati. An identical scenario was to occur in Liège-Dudelange in October. A scheduled restart has already been "postponed by one month,” unions said.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.