Emer­gency meet­ing ends strike at Italy’s trou­bled ILVA plant

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

ROME: Ital­ian metal work­ers called off a strike at Europe's big­gest steel plant af­ter an emer­gency meet­ing be­tween govern­ment, unions and com­pany man­age­ment to save the ILVA fac­tory from clo­sure. The bat­tle over the fu­ture of ILVA, owned by the Riva Group, has been one of the big­gest chal­lenges faced by the govern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Mario Monti and a sym­bol of the strug­gle to pre­serve heavy man­u­fac­tur­ing in Italy.

Union work­ers, who ear­lier stopped two of the plant's steel works and a blast fur­nace to put pres­sure on man­age­ment to en­sure the fu­ture of the site, said they ended their strike, af­ter the govern­ment promised their salaries would con­tinue to be paid. But the Riva Group later re­leased a state­ment say­ing ILVA would only be able "to meet its com­mit­ments, start­ing with the pay­ment of wages" if steel prod­ucts seized by an Ital­ian court were re­leased, in line with a govern­ment or­der. ILVA pro­duced 8.5 mil­lion met­ric tons of steel in 2011, nearly 30 per­cent of Italy's to­tal out­put, and the govern­ment says its clo­sure would cost the wider econ­omy up to 9 bil­lion euros ($11.96 bil­lion), with knock-on ef­fects through­out the whole of Ital­ian in­dus­try. The govern­ment is in a stand­off with a court that or­dered the fac­tory to shut un­til it up­dates its fa­cil­i­ties to re­duce pol­lu­tion, which the court says has led to in­creased deaths from can­cer and res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases in the south­ern city of Taranto. Fear­ing even a tem­po­rary shut­down would threaten the fu­ture of the trou­bled plant, which pro­vides 20,000 jobs in an area of high un­em­ploy­ment, the govern­ment last month passed a law over­rid­ing the court judg­ment and al­low­ing the plant to stay open as it un­der­goes the two-year clean-up. It also re­turned to com­pany man­age­ment key fac­tory in­stal­la­tions taken into court ad­min­is­tra­tion in July, and or­dered the re­lease of 1 bil­lion euros worth of steel pro­duc­tion seized in Novem­ber af­ter the ar­rest of sev­eral mem­bers of the Riva fam­ily.

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