EMCC dossier on the crisis in the steel sector
On 13 February 2003 the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on the crisis in the steel sector and the measures to be taken at Community level. This was against the background of Arcelor's announcement of restructuring plans throughout the group's continental sites. The Parliament calls on the Commission and EU Member States to promote innovation in this sector and to develop new actions aimed at specialisation as well as quality. This EMCC dossier outlines the background to the EP resolution through a series of links providing a wide range of information on the crisis, its developments, as well as some case studies of the sector.
Over the last two decades the European steel industry has gone through a difficult period and an overall restructuring of the sector was necessary to maintain a competitive steel industry in Europe. Against the background of Arcelor's announcement of restructuring plans throughout the group's continental sites, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 13 February 2003 demanding Arcelor to assume its social responsibility, and to treat all of its continental sites on an equal footing, and not in a discriminatory manner. It must be stressed, at the same time, that Arcelor has submitted an initial bid for Polskie Huty Stali (PHS), the grouping of four of Poland's most important steel plants, and that the Polish government is contemplating intervention of 2.7 billion zlotys.
The Parliament calls on the Commission to ensure strict application of the treaties to any aid request made by the Polish government in connection with this operation. It also calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the authorities concerned, to examine effective and targeted use of Community funds, and above all the European Social Fund, for the vocational training and re-training of the workers concerned. Furthermore, the Parliament welcomes the creation of a group of Commissioners (enterprise, trade, competition, enlargement, economic policy, social policy and external policy) to define a coherent reaction, given the future difficulties.
The Parliament insists on keeping a strong and modern steel sector in the EU and considers that all subsidies granted within the framework of the public funds should be subject to agreements on employment, local development and investment intended to modernise production. Member States are invited to promote and strengthen social dialogue in respect of national and European legislation with regards to worker information and consultation, and to adopt effective measures to protect the trade union representatives.
The following is a collection of links providing a wide range of information on the crisis in the steel sector and its developments, as well as some case studies of the sector:
The provisional edition of the resolution on the crisis in the steel sector adopted by the European Parliament (EP) in their plenary session on 13 February 2003.
The verbatim report of Commissioner Byrne's intervention on the crisis in the steel sector and the measures to be taken at Community level in the European Parliament session on 13 February 2003.
European Industrial Relations Observatory on-line
The European Industrial Relations Observatory on-line (EIRO) provides information on:
- the current controversy over Arcelor's restructuring plans including plant closures in Belgium;
- the strengthened co-determination of the European iron and steel sector resulting in the merger of Arbed (Luxembourg), Usinor (France) and Aceralia (Spain) to create the world's largest iron and steel producer, Arcelor in January 2002;
- the benefits of the merger.
To follow up on the changes affecting the European steel sector - marked by privatisation, internationalisation and concentration into a small number of large multinationals - EIRO compiled a comparative study looking at 15 of the 25 EU Member States (including Poland) and Norway. The study examines: the recent development of the steel industry; changes in employment levels and practices; the organisation, activities and views of employers and trade unions; the position and role of governments; and the structure and content of collective bargaining.
European Metalworkers' Federation
The European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF), on the occasion of the meeting of the Arcelor Board of Directors in Luxembourg, published a press release asking Arcelor's management to provide a transparent, detailed and complete notification about their company's future strategies. They also announced further proceedings to take place in 2003, i.e. organisation of a European Action Day in early May 2003 (see press release, available in English and French).
Case studies in the steel sector
In September 2000 the Bernhard Brunhes Consultancy in France published an online dossier (available in French only) on how to manage local industrial crises in Europe, resulting from a study carried out for the European Commission. It gives access to
- the final report, Études de cas sur le traitement des conséquences sociales des grandes restructurations d'entreprises, which analyses restructuring induced by competitiveness, social measures orientated towards employment, partnership initiatives towards a local economic redevelopment and new practices. The report concludes with recommendations addressing aspects of the social and local consequences of restructuring and stressing the necessity of anticipation in order to cope with continuous change.
- 20 case studies of which five are cases in the steel sector: Voest Alpine in Linz (Austria); Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (AHV) in Bilbao (Spain); British Steel in Ravenscraig (Scotland); Groupe Falck in Sesto San Giovani (Lombardia); Société Anonyme Minière et Métallurgique de Rodange Athus (MMRA) in Luxembourg.
The website of the Directorate General (DG) Trade, which conducts the European Union's common trade policy, has a whole section dedicated to the steel sector (available in English only). Provides valuable information on
- data concerning imports and exports world-wide, shown in a geographical breakdown for the European Union, the United States and Japan;
- legislation and reports including the full text of the Council Regulation 'establishing additional customs duties on imports of certain products originating in the United States of America' (June 2003).
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The OECD's Steel Committee is an international forum where steel-producing countries can meet to address the trade and adjustment issues confronting the steel sector. In addition to providing a forum where senior government officials from member and non-member countries meet to address current and emerging issues, it carries out statistical and analytical work on policy, industry and market developments in steel.