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Unions at ArcelorMittal's Ilva plant call strike over job plans

MILAN (Reuters) - Unions representing workers at the Ilva steel plant in southern Italy called a strike for Tuesday to protest at reported plans by ArcelorMittal MT.AS for thousands of job cuts at the struggling facility.

FILE PHOTO: The Ilva steel plant is seen after ArcelorMittal said it was withdrawing from a deal to buy it over a legal row with the government, in Taranto, Italy, November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

The call by the FIM, FIOM and UILM unions came after Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli accused the group of failing to respect the terms of a rescue agreement signed with the government in March.

Under that agreement, ArcelorMittal agreed to suspend plans to walk away from the plant in the southern city of Taranto, which it acquired in 2018, in exchange for a significant injection of state funding.

Italian media reported at the weekend that a new industrial plan presented to the government late on Friday included 5,000 job cuts. A spokeswoman for ArcelorMittal confirmed the group had presented a plan but declined to provide details.

The loss-making plant, which employs more than 8,000 workers and provides work for thousands more as suppliers or contractors, is one of the few major industrial employers in Italy’s economically struggling south.

But its future has been clouded by the need to restore competitiveness while cleaning up after decades of severe environmental damage.

Patuanelli said on Saturday that an industrial plan presented by the group last week was not in line with the March agreement and that ArcelorMittal appeared to be using the COVID-19 emergency as an excuse for not sticking to the agreement.

“The plan presented by Arcelor Mittal does not reflect the government’s intentions for Taranto and doesn’t reflect the agreement of March 4,” Patuanelli told RAI state television.

The unions said the plan was unacceptable and demanded “full employment, investment and environmental restructuring” in line with an agreement from 2018.

Unions are expected to meet Patuanelli by videolink on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Barbara Lewis

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