Over 300 members of the Solidaritatea trade union gathered today at 3 p.m. in the center of the eastern city of Galati to protest against the technical unemployment called upon by the management of the chemical plant ArcelorMittal, a subsidiary of the global leader in steel making.
The company announced on March 13 it would send all its steel workers employed at Galati in technical unemployment during the second quarter. The 12,000 employees will take turns in staying home for ten days in a row. ArcelorMittal had previously stated that throughout the interval they would receive 75 percent of their salaries and the bonus for length of service.
Today, after several rounds of discussions, the management agreed to increase the bonuses allotted to 80-82 percent of the salary and the length of service bonus. Trade unions are not yet satisfied and presented several alternatives. They want to receive either 90 percent of their salaries and the length of service bonus, either 100 percent the salary and the bonus or 90 percent of the salary, the bonus and the promise to raise salaries by 15 percent starting with the second quarter.
“We cannot accept this measure as workers have already suffered enough. Besides, we do not think that it would help reduce costs substantially,” declared Adrian Adascalitei, first vice president of the trade union's FSS-Metarom local branch on March 17.
The board explained that the technical unemployment is a direct consequence of the steep decrease in demand. It predicts a maximum production of 1.5 million tones of steel for 2009. As to the 2010-2012 interval, estimates indicate an annual 3 million tones production, a massive reduction when considering the 4.4 million tones of liquid steel that were produced in 2007.
Since the economic crisis set in last autumn, the steel demand dropped, dragging behind it the halt of activity in the steel-producing plants. The ArcelorMittal Galati management diminished production gradually, temporarily closed units, did away with subcontractors and reduced the number of employees. It also opened a voluntary leave plan at the end of last year, through which it hopes to reduce the staff by 3,600 people by 2012. In addition, an activity restructuring program will be implemented addressing all sectors and aiming to reduce costs, losses and work-related accidents and to increase productivity.
ArcelorMittal is the largest steel producer in the world, employing 330,000 people in over 60 countries. In Romania, it controls the chemical plants in Hunedoara and Galati, the pipe producing units in Iasi and Roman, the harbor operator Romportmet Galati and the local arm of the construction company ArcelorMittal Construction.
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