French president makes fresh promises to Florange steel workers

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French president makes fresh promises to Florange steel workers

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Many steel workers are angry about French President Francois Hollande’s broken 2012 promise that two steel furnaces in Florange would never close. They did, resulting in redundancies.

Hollande returned to the Florange plant on Thursday looking to regain the support of steel workers who feel betrayed by the president.

“I’m going to come back here, to Florange, every year, to observe how our commitments of making a research and development centre has been respected. And to see that this centre is working properly,” said Hollande.

With his approval ratings at all-time lows and unemployment above 10 percent, Hollande is looking to traditional backers of his Socialist Party to stop the advance of the far-right National Front before municipal and European polls next year.

The president announced the creation of a public research centre for the steel industry after touring parts of the Florange plant that have been modernised with a 250 million euro investment by its owners ArcelorMittal.

Describing talks with Hollande as “heated”, CFDT union representative Edouard Martin said the onus was now on the president to see the investment pledge through.

“In total, there are 562 million euros to be invested in the next two years here in this valley. Everyone of us can think differently. There are some people who think that this is crap. But if this is crap, I’d like to have lots of it everyday,” he said.

Hollande visited Florange as a presidential candidate in 2012, promising to defend the steel industry. He pledged that the two furnaces would never close. However they closed in April this year.

The so-called Florange law, which parliament began debating on Tuesday, requires firms to prove they have exhausted all options for selling a plant to a new operator before closing it.