Arcelor’s ERTE due to the blast furnace fire: the departments that will be affected and those that will not

Arcelor’s ERTE due to the blast furnace fire: the departments that will be affected and those that will not

The temporary employment regulation file (ERTE) due to the fire at ArcelorMittal furnace A in Veriña (Gijón), agreed last Tuesday by the company’s management and the UGT, CC OO and USO unions, will mainly affect the workforce the Avilés steel mill and the tin and wire rod workshops, as well as the personnel from the damaged furnace itself and the sinter that feeds it with iron ore.

The ERTE due to force majeure, which is being examined by the labor authority, includes the workers of the so-called Asturias Cluster, which includes the Asturian steel facilities and the finishing plants that depend on them: Extebarri (Basque Country), Lesaka and Legasa ( Navarra) and Sagunto (Valencian Community). The Asturias Cluster employs around 7,000 workers, of which around 4,900 are in Asturias. However, the file will not involve the approximately half a thousand workers in Asturias from structural departments not linked to manufacturing activity, such as finance, environment, R&D or security. Therefore, the potential affected by the ERTE in the Principality will be around 4,400 professionals, union sources calculated.

The steel company has not yet specified how the ERTE will be executed, but the workforce assumes for sure that there will be cuts in the blast furnaces -since only B works due to the fire-, as well as in the sinters that feed them of iron ore.

The lack of pig iron due to the inactivity of blast furnace A is affecting production at the Avilés steelworks. “There are shifts that work with two casting lines and others that only work with one,” union sources said. Therefore, everything indicates that personnel will also be regulated here.

With the steel head limited by the lack of a furnace, it will be necessary to adjust production in the workshops if semi-finished products are not brought in from other plants. The company will analyze the demand that each of them has in order to apply adjustments that will be covered from the labor point of view with the ERTE. From the staff it is highlighted that at the moment the finishing shops in the worst position are the tin plate ones in Avilés and the wire rod ones in Gijón. This last finishing workshop “in recent months has suffered at least one stoppage of one week a month,” union sources indicated.

An ArcelorMittal spokesman indicated that there is an intention to preserve the production of the Avilés hot strip mill (TBC), where flat semi-finished steel (known as “slab” or slab) is rolled and transformed into coils used by other finishing shops of the company in Asturias, but also in the Basque Country, Navarra and the Valencian Community. About 370 people work here.

In workshops such as the heavy plate and rail workshops in Gijón, activity is high and no cuts are expected from the workforce.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the unions asked the company to “strengthen supplies of semi-finished products from other group plants” to compensate for lost capacity and guarantee supply to finishing facilities.

The ERTE agreement contemplates a reduction of up to 25% of the annual working day of all the workers, although the company points out that in the previous ERTE, in force until March and with a furnace temporarily closed due to the contraction of the market, the maximum was 6%.

As in the old file, the payment of 90% of the gross salary and 100% of the extra payments is maintained, as well as the entire vacation “regardless of the time the contract is suspended,” indicates the framework agreement. In principle, the ERTE will have a maximum duration of six months, although it is possible that the term may be extended or reduced. It all depends on the final extent of the damage from the fire in furnace A, which Arcelor technicians have yet to determine.

Transparency requires Industry to reveal the small print of the aid of 450 million

The Council for Transparency and Good Governance, an independent public body, has urged the Ministry of Industry to reveal the content of the memorandum of understanding signed on July 13, 2021 in Gijón by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the president of ArcelorMittal , Lakshmi Mittal. The result of this agreement was the approval last week of direct aid of 450 million, within the PERTE for the decarbonization of the industry, to the steel company. On March 2, 2022, a claimant addressed the Transparency Council because he wanted to know the memorandum that Sánchez and Mittal had signed in Gijón “to find out what obligations the Government of Spain assumes.” Transparency contacted the Ministry of Industry, which responded that the request could affect Arcelor’s rights and interests, and therefore granted the company a period of arguments. With Arcelor’s allegations, Industry pointed out that the detailed information in the memorandum included details of the company, in its decarbonization objective, “considered as innovative and its disclosure would entail a competitive disadvantage.” Therefore, Industry considered it necessary to protect the information. The claimant did not agree and filed a claim with the Transparency Council. Industry presented allegations reiterating its opposition and alluding to “business secret.” Finally, and after a year of procedures, Transparency has urged Industry to reveal the fine print of the memorandum that does not include technological or economic information about the company.


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