POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Steel industry

Liberty Steel's U-turn in Liege



Liberty Steel's Luxembourg site operates with supplies from Liberty Steel in Liège. (Photo: Nader Ghavami/Maison Moderne)

Liberty Steel's Luxembourg site operates with supplies from Liberty Steel in Liège. (Photo: Nader Ghavami/Maison Moderne)

While the steelmaker had committed itself to a financial restructuring in order to perpetuate its activity in Liège, Liberty Steel has decided to abandon it. This could have serious consequences for the company's activity in Dudelange.

At the end of November 2021, Liberty Steel in Liège avoided bankruptcy by submitting a financial restructuring proposal to the Belgian courts with the support of Sogepa (the equivalent of SNCI) and Liberty Steel Galati, the Romanian subsidiary of the steel group, which was to provide fresh investment.

This proposal was accepted by the court, to the great relief of the 690 workers, even though 90 jobs would be lost in the operation.

But a month later, Liberty Steel abandoned the recovery plan. In any case, this is what the workers at the Tilleur and Flémalle sites (in the province of Liège) learned following an extraordinary works council meeting at the end of December. “The Romanian subsidiary of Liberty Steel was supposed to guarantee an initial injection of money, but obviously it didn't do so. I don't have much information on the situation in Liège, but it now looks bad”, says Robert Fornieri, deputy secretary general of the LCGB, who is closely following the Liberty Steel case in Luxembourg.

Great concern in Luxembourg

A reversal that plunges the future of the steelmaker's activity on the banks of the Meuse into deep uncertainty.

On the Luxembourg side, concern has also risen after the steelmaker's change of course, insofar as Liberty Steel in Dudelange is heavily dependent on supplies from Liège. “We quickly asked the management of Liberty Steel about the consequences for the Luxembourg site. But for the moment, they cannot give us clear answers as they do not know the outcome of the situation in Liège,” explains Fornieri.

“They obviously want to try to resolve the situation in Liege before answering us. A bankruptcy in Liège will have many consequences for Dudelange,” which is heavily dependent on Liège for supplies. “Without Liège, Dudelange is not in a position to function in the current state of affairs,” said Fornieri.

The only positive note is that the events in Liège have not interrupted the negotiations on the job maintenance plan on the Luxembourg side. “We will say that this is good news. We are in the final phase of the negotiations and we are waiting for a return from the management of Liberty Steel,” said Fornieri.

The uncertainty about the future of the Dudelange plant comes as the LCGB said the government is meeting its obligations and agreed to protect the industry. The first stage of the agreements from the tripartite meeting which took place last year, has been completed. In a press release, the labour union highlighted the profitability and performances of steel in Luxembourg and urged that its work force be valued for its true worth in generating wealth, and that profits be redistributed in recognition of their skills.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.

Additional reporting by Edouard Ombredane