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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: C’est l’heure de vérité pour l’avenir de Florange

by Thomas Lemahieu

Moment of Truth for Future of Florange

Translated Friday 7 December 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

According to the trade unions, the government is now determined to force its way if Mittal refuses to sell its plant in eastern France. The bosses, represented by Laurence Parisot, are crying scandal in the name of “property rights.”

In the battle to save the steel works in Florange in eastern France, the moment of truth is approaching. And on the morning of Nov. 29 it was Laurence Parisot, the head of the bosses’ association, who came out of the woods to fly to the aid of her ill-used colleague, Lakshmi Mittal. For her, the perspective of a temporary nationalization is outrageous and “is quite simply and purely scandalous.” “If it is a matter, through such language, of quite simply exercising pressure, of blackmailing, in the course of negotiations, it is inadmissible,” said the president of the MEDEF who, with her “pigeon” friends, or all by herself, spends her time blackmailing the government.

A plant that is still profitable

“Our whole society is built on one essential principle, that of property rights. Weakening that principle, like that, hastily, is very serious, and in addition, let’s not forget that it is very expensive! One must follow the dictates of reason, and I doubt not that the president of France will be much more reasonable than minister Montebourg…” This time, the bosses’ gesticulations apparently do not move the government. And ministers like Manuel Valls are hurrying to close ranks around their comrade, who is in the bosses’ cross-hairs.

“I didn’t hear Mrs. Parisot getting indignant when it was established that this company chairman had decided to under-utilize a plant that is, nevertheless, profitable, or when the formidable industrial waste at that plant was established,” said Jérôme Cahuzac, the budget minister. “I would have preferred it if she had used that adjective when the owner of this industrial plant was behaving in the way we have learned, transferring a large portion of the profits from French industrial plants beyond our borders, notably to Luxemburg.”

“But where was the head of the bosses’ association when Mittal indulged in systematically breaking up French steel-making? On holiday,” the French Communist Party said angrily.

In substance, of Mittal refuses to sell its plant in eastern France as a block, everything is said to be ready on the desks of the French president and prime minister. According to the CGT metalworkers federation, which participated in the meeting with the minister for industrial renewal, “the legal, economic and industrial set-up is totally prepared, and Arnaud Montebourg believes that, on his side, everything is ready.” On the basis of words spoken at the Ministry of the Economy, the trade union speaks of an industrial buyer ready to put up 400 million euros, with the state chipping in another 400 million euros. It is said that this temporary nationalization will be financed by the sale of part of the stake held by the state in certain companies.

On a European scale

For the CGT that solution is unacceptable. “We’re not going to nationalize on the one hand to privatize on the other!” the trade union exclaimed. The CGT defends the perspective of a public steel company on a European scale. The CGT recommends drawing on the dividends paid to the state on the basis of its stake of nearly 60 billion euros in a certain number of companies.

The latest sign of the ongoing development in the trade union and political areas: As he was leaving to greet a dozen CFDT union officials who have been camping since Nov. 28 in front of the Ministry for Industrial Renewal, Laurent Berger, who had just been named to head the CFDT, a trade union which has excluded hypotheses of this type since its “re-centering” in the 1980s, defended “the only solution” which, in his opinion, is “transitory nationalization.”

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