ArcelorMittal and EMF sign European framework agreement

In early November 2009, the management of ArcelorMittal and the European Metalworkers’ Federation signed a European framework agreement on the management and anticipation of change at ArcelorMittal. The agreement places social dialogue as a lever for the anticipation of change and contains commitments to maintain facilities and safeguard employment levels.

On 2 November 2009, the European management of the world’s largest steel company ArcelorMittal and the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) signed a European framework agreement on managing and anticipating change at the company. The agreement will apply to the 115,000 workers employed by ArcelorMittal in Europe.

Aim and content of agreement

The agreement (185Kb MS Word doc) includes provisions aiming to safeguard employment at ArcelorMittal and maintain workers’ purchasing power. ArcelorMittal states that, despite the economic crisis that has led to reduced activity and to the idling of blast furnaces and industrial sites, it does not plan to shutdown any of its European steel plants. The world’s largest steelmaker intends to use all possible means to maintain its current workforce. The group also agrees not to resort to compulsory dismissals. If dismissals are envisaged, the company commits to enter into negotiations with the trade unions to reach socially responsible solutions to ensure the future of the employment basins.

Furthermore, the agreement aims to maintain workers’ purchasing power. For this purpose, the company and trade unions commit to enter into negotiations in order to limit the loss of salary in case of short-time working.

Social dialogue as a lever for anticipation of change

A second set of provisions is meant to ensure the group’s competitiveness and long-term sustainability. According to the agreement, based on the identification and anticipation of competence and qualification requirements, a strategy of long-term skills development and training activities will be pursued.

The signatories to the agreement also stress the need for an active and permanent social dialogue as a pre-condition for the anticipatory management of change. Information, consultation and negotiations are considered the basic tools of social dialogue at European, national and local level. It is intended to jointly define minimum standards for social dialogue in companies where they do not exist and to deploy them in the other ones.

The agreement provides for a reinforcement of the role of the European Works Council and the national employee representation bodies, as well as for information and consultation procedures to be conducted in a timely manner. At European level, it is also planned to redesign the Social Dialogue group within ArcelorMittal which will comprise 12 representatives of trade unions and 12 representatives of ArcelorMittal management. The tasks of the group include the analysis of the demographic development and the need for competences and training. At national level, follow-up committees are in charge of monitoring the implementation of the agreement. They are expected to draw up a summary report twice a year.

European company-level agreements and cross-border trade union coordination

After having concluded an International Framework Agreement on health and safety in June 2008 (EU0807029I), the agreement on managing and anticipating change is the second transnational framework agreement signed at ArcelorMittal. At the same time, it is the third European framework agreement signed by EMF dealing with the anticipation of change. Similar agreements characterised by a proactive approach to demographic change and future needs for skills and competences have been signed at the two French companies Thales (EU0908019I) and Schneider Electric (EU0709019I).

The agreement signed at ArcelorMittal is also another example of the application of the ‘Internal EMF procedures for negotiations at multinational company level’. This approach to cross-border trade union cooperation is meant to guarantee a close coordination between EMF and the involved national trade union structures in all phases of the negotiation process.

Commentary

In a joint press release, the transnational enterprise and EMF commented on the agreement. Michel Wurth, member of the General Management Board responsible for ArcelorMittal Flat Products Europe, stated:

Making Europe’s steel industry competitive and secure now and for the next 20 years is a challenge that deserves to be dealt with in partnership. The Social Dialogue Group created by this agreement is a good forum to work together on such fundamental challenges.

Gonzalo Urquijo, member of the General Management Board responsible for Long Products Europe, added:

The conclusion of this agreement is indicative of the mutual trust and willingness of the parties involved to address the challenges facing the European steel industry and find mutually beneficial solutions.

EMF Deputy General Secretary Bart Samyn emphasised:

This agreement finds concrete ways of dealing with the effects of the crisis and is a step in the right direction in the current period of uncertainty. Furthermore, it provides for the ongoing skills development of workers and the long-term sustainable industrial development of ArcelorMittal in Europe. The EMF trusts that the agreement will be swiftly implemented in all the European ArcelorMittal sites. The EMF will be vigilant about ensuring the full application of the agreement.

Volker Telljohann, IRES Emilia-Romagna, Bologna

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