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Italian steelworkers strike over planned job losses after ArcelorMittal takeover

Rome, Oct 9 (IANS/AKI) Workers at the troubled Ilva steel plant in southern Italy on Monday held a 24-hour-strike over plans to cut 4,000 jobs as part of its restructuring under a takeover by led by Indian steel multinational ArcelorMittal.

Union members held a sit-in at Ilva’s site in Taranto, Puglia, where 3,300 job losses are planned and also protested at Ilva’s plant in Genoa where a further 600 jobs would go.

The Am Investco takeover consortium intends to re-hire almost 10,000 out of 14,000 Ilva workers, according to a letter sent to unions ahead of government-mediated talks slated in Rome on Monday.

Italian trade unions and the government want Am Investco to guarantee it will maintain Ilva employees’ existing salaries, jobs and contractual benefits while the consortium has said it wants to re-negotiate these.

Am Investco includes ArceolorMittal and Italy’s Marcegaglia and Intesa Sanpaolo bank. The Italian government in June accepted Am Investco’s offer of 1.8 billion euros to revamp and clean up the steelworks after the consortium fought off a rival bid from a partnership led by the Indian company Jindal South West Steel.

ArcelorMittal pledged to invest 2.4 billion euros in Ilva, in addition to the purchase price, the Italian government said at the time.

A court this year declared Ilva insolvent, with nearly three billion euros of debt. The polluting Taranto plant, the largest in Europe, was nationalised and put under special administration in 2015 after the Riva family, which owned it, was accused of failing to prevent toxic emissions.

The plant, which once produced a third of Italy’s steel, has been linked to higher cancer rates in the local population. It is at the centre of a major legal case in which prosecutors alleged that 11,550 people had been killed by emissions in seven years.

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