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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Workers strike at ArcelorMittal European sites

Wed Dec 7, 2011

* 24-hour strikes announced in Florange, France and Luxembourg - company
* Unions say 40,000 demonstrators protest closures in Liege, Belgium
* Unions protest steel mill closures in Europe

LONDON/BRUSSELS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Thousands of workers were staging strikes and demonstrations at European plants of ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, on Wednesday in what the European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) said was a protest against job insecurity.

"There are strikes at Liege in Belgium, Florange in France and some smaller units in Luxembourg," Arne Langner a spokesman for ArcelorMittal said.

"The unions have announced a 24-hour strike. They have started this morning and we don't know yet whether it will be tonight or tomorrow morning that they will start to work again."

The EMF said strikes ranging from two hours per shift to a 24-hour walkout would take place at plants across France.

Stoppages were also expected to take place in Italy, Spain and at some sites in Germany, while rallies are planned in the Czech Republic, Romania, Macedonia and Poland.

Belgian unions said that there were 40,000 people at the demonstration in the Belgian town of Liege on Wednesday.

"There are not just steel workers here today, there are also workers from other sectors, both industry and services, which are on strike," Eric de Deyn spokesman for the BBTK union said.

"All shops in the city centre are closed out of solidarity with the workers of ArcelorMittal."

In October, Arcelor said it would permanently end liquid phase steel production at its site in Liege, given over-capacity and a slow recovery in the European market.

The group also idled blast furnaces in Florange in France and Eisenhuettenstadt in Germany.

The EMF said it would give an update on the walkouts and impact on production at a news conference in London later on Wednesday.

ArcelorMittal spokesman Langner did not comment on what impact the strike would have on the company's production.

The steel producer, which makes between 6 and 7 percent of global steel and has been laying off staff at some plants, said in early November a summer dip in demand is deepening into a second-half slump and customers were increasingly cautious due to economic uncertainties.

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