Workers cannot and should not pay the price for mismanagement, lack of investment and lack of respect. Europe cannot afford to lose this strategic industry

The rally was attended by Judith Kirton-Darling, General Secretary of industriAll Europe, and Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, to express the solidarity of steelworkers across Europe and around the world with the 3000 protesting workers fighting to get their company back to work in Ostrava. Solidarity messages came from all over Europe. Delegations of steelworkers from other countries took part in the Ostrava rally and solidarity actions were organised in other countries, such as the mobilisation of steelworkers in Liège, Belgium.

Crisis in Ostrava

The situation at GFG Alliance/Liberty Steel in continental Europe is critical and particularly dire in the Czech Republic, where production has been halted for weeks with no prospect of a rapid resumption and thousands of workers have been sent home in the dark about their future.

In Ostrava, the Liberty Steel plant's energy supplier, Tameh, declared insolvency in December 2023, while 117 of Liberty's subcontractors on site are suffering the consequences of the crisis, without heating or water. Not only is the future of the Ostrava plant and its 6,000 workers at stake, but an entire region and local supply chain of 30,000 indirect jobs and 900 SMEs linked to Liberty Steel's operations could pay the price for mismanagement. These concerns are shared by the public authorities, with the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade urging Liberty Steel to provide a solid industrial plan for the long-term growth of the Ostrava plant, which has yet to be communicated.

Steel crisis in Europe

The Liberty Steel’s crisis is part of a wider European emergency for the entire steel sector. Faced with high energy prices, a collapse in orders and the mothballing of several steel plants, the European steel industry is currently facing a major crisis.

European steel production has fallen sharply over the past year and there are fears that up to half of Europe's steel capacity could be permanently lost. Thousands of workers from different steelmaking companies are temporarily out of work. Despite the challenges within the EU, the global landscape tells a different story, with overall steel overcapacity continuing to rise. Countries such as China and India are on an expansionary path, exacerbating the imbalance in the global steel market.

Urgent action needed

In the face of the crisis, industriAll Europe continues to call for a European a Steel Action Plan to protect thousands of jobs in Europe and the strategic autonomy of the EU. A real European industrial and investment strategy is needed, not cuts and austerity.

Together with its affiliates, industriAll Europe is currently involved in a number of actions to secure a future for steel in Europe and the pressure is building.

An emergency meeting was convened on 8 February between the European Commission's Executive Vice-President Vestager and the leaders of industriAll Europe. The meeting followed urgent calls by industriAll Europe and IndustriALL Global Union a few days earlier to draw attention to the critical situation unfolding at the European continental plants of GFG Alliance/Liberty Steel and management practices that are putting Europe's strategic steel production at risk.

IndustriAll Europe presented the situation of European steel workers to MEPs and representatives of the European Commission at a meeting in the European Parliament on 14 February.

A high-level EU crisis summit on the future of steel production in Europe will be convened shortly on the initiative of the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Vestager.

Judith Kirton-Darling, General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

"It is unacceptable that steelworkers in Ostrava do not know what their future holds. Liberty Steel has failed to deliver on its promised investment in Ostrava and is responsible for the fate of the steelworkers who now fear for their jobs.

"Workers cannot and should not pay the price for mismanagement, lack of investment and lack of respect. And this in an industry that is strategic for climate action and our security!

"We insist that Europe cannot afford to lose this strategic industry, which is so important for Europe's strategic autonomy in the context of energy transition and geopolitical conflict. The protests in Ostrava are just the beginning and policymakers must listen and act. European steelworkers expect decisive action to support steel in Europe.”

Ostrava declaration: declaration of the protesting workers