Global: adapting to the downturn
Since 2008 we have faced challenging market conditions and we have had to restructure some of our operations to reflect this. We continue to do what we can to minimise the impact on our workforce, working closely with our unions. In 2014, whilst economic conditions remain tough, we are seeing some signs of improvement. In France, for example, we have hired 700 new people since we reconfigured the Florange steel plant into a centre of excellence in high-end steel. And in South Africa, a new one-year wage agreement was successfully negotiated without any strike action, despite four weeks of industrial action affecting other parts of the steel and metalworking sector in the country. However, during the year we also saw two occasions when our unions were on strike for more than one week. The first was in Gent during CLA negotiations, and lasted seven days. The second, at Contracoeur West, Canada, involved a lock out in August and lasted nine days following the union membership’s rejection of the latest offer during CLA negotiations. The lock out ended with both parties agreeing to the introduction of a DC plan for future new hires.