Two Italian government ministers have been meeting representatives of Europe’s largest steel factory which is threatened with closure and the loss of up to 20,000 jobs.
The ILVA factory in Taranto in southern Italy was ordered to stop production by a judge because of high levels of pollution which, its claimed, are causing health problems for local people.
Magistrates fear that chemicals pumped from the site may have led to the deaths of hundreds of people in the past 13 years.
Steelworkers and local people gathered to demonstrate on Friday but opinions are divided because while they are worried about health, they are also concerned about unemployment in one of the poorest regions of Italy.
“Health first,” said one man. “After that comes jobs, that’s what we say”
But a woman protestor added: “The town is full of people, like me, suffering chemotherapy and fighting against cancer and we are victims of pollution.”
While health concerns are uppermost in local people’s minds, the government and trade unions are fighting to keep the factory open while it undergoes a 336m euro clean-up refit.