Europe's largest steelworks to close?

The steelworks at Taranto. Photo credit: Corriere di Taranto

 TARANTO – There is increased concern that Europe’s largest steelworks will close as ministers and managers fight over ArcelorMittal’s Ilva plant in Taranto, say business sources.

 The managers of the plant had previously had immunity from prosecution, which on Monday night the Senate voted to revoke.

 In the past, ArcelorMittal (a giant French-Indian steel company which has owned the Italian steel company Ilva since Sept. 2018) has threatened to close down Ilva if the immunity is scrapped.  The Ilva plant in Taranto is a major employer in southern Italy.

 Three trade unions, CGIL, CSIL and UIL, asked to meet Stefano Patuanelli, Minister of Economic Development.  According to La Repubblica, 5,000 people are at risk of losing their jobs.

 “The government does not realise what it has done,” said Marco Bentivogli, general secretary of FIM CISL trade union, reported Il Messaggero.

 Patuanelli has stated that Ilva must not close, but it is hard to see how he will prevent this should ArcelorMittal decide to move elsewhere.  Such a move would be relatively easy for the steel giant, and disastrous for Italy.

 ArcelorMittal have as yet given no comment.  The Ilva plant at Taranto has been involved in a number of environmental scandals, which makes the immunity particularly important.

 As La Repubblica reports, these were already difficult times for the steel giant: in addition to the new US customs, there is less and less demand for steel worldwide, creating a crisis of overproduction.

 The withdrawal of ArcelorMittal’s immunity is the end of a long campaign.  Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, now deputy prime minister and foreign minister, previously backed down from scrapping the immunity due to threats from the company to close its Italy operation.

 The move to withdraw immunity was particularly pushed by the Five Star Movement, but passed with the support of the whole majority coalition government.  It will become law on Nov. 3, after which ArcelorMittal will have no further protection from prosecution.

 Predictably, the League have been very critical of the vote.