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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Florange entre écœurement et résistance

by Clotilde Mathieu 
and Laurence Mauriaucourt

Florange Between Disgust and Resistance

Translated Saturday 15 December 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Florange, eastern France, from our special correspondents. The day after their meeting with the Prime Minister in Paris, the CGT and CFDT trade unionists at Florange are getting ready for a new stage in the struggle to save the steel industry in Lorraine.

“They gave in to Mittal and the agreement, with or without Ulcos, is unacceptable since it means the end of steel-making in Lorraine. In no way does the decision embody a worthy industrial orientation for a left government!” Jean Mangin, a CGT trade union official at Florange, said angrily upon his return from the Prime Minister’s palace.

After the shock of last week, the CGT union members, meeting at Saint Nicolas en Forêt within sight of the two blast furnaces, learned that Mittal had just withdrawn Florange from the Ulcos project. “This is an additional slap in the face, and it confirms that Mittal can’t be trusted. But this project, which has been under study for seven or eight years, is not en end in and of itself. In any case, if the blast furnace is shut down, it will never be started up again. And yet, steel-making is viable, profitable, and useful,” the trade unionist repeated, quoting the Faure report commissioned by the government.

A lack of political courage.

In the hall, debate began to define a form of action that could mobilize as many workers as possible. “We haven’t witnessed an act of betrayal, but rather a lack of political courage on the part of the government,” Lionel Burriello hammered home. Burriello is tagged to become the head of the CGT union at ArcelorMittal Florange this December 7, as the successor to Yves Fabbri. “We have, however, won the media battle, the battle for public opinion,” Burriello continued. “Now, we have to go on to the second stage: mobilizing the workers and the local population so that steel will continue to be made in Lorraine.”

At the same time, standing outside the trade union hall in Florange, Edouard Martin, surrounded by his CFDT trade union colleagues, with tears in his eyes, spoke to the press: “We’ve come to the end of the road. We can’t do any more.”

Mittal’s announcement that it was withdrawing from the Ulcos project was experienced as “a second dagger blow.” The Prime Minister is accused of having struck “the first blow” when he signed the agreement that eliminated all idea of sale to a white knight or of nationalization, even temporary.

“Our determination is as strong as our disgust,” Martin nevertheless stated, “resistance is continuing.” Condemning a “cynicism” that has reached its “climax,” Edouard Martin displayed extreme firmness: “We now have two identified enemies. Before, we were fighting against Mittal, now we’re going to have to fight against Mittal and against the government!” “No one is going to touch the gas valves!” he warned, promising to occupy the blast furnaces beginning on December 10,” among other “surprise” actions, “as [we did] against Sarkozy.”

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