French unions brand 'steel deal' a betrayal

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The “secret” deal that ended a threat by the French government to nationalise a steel plant in Lorraine has infuriated unions and even some cabinet ministers.

Union leaders spoke of “betrayal” and “amateurism” when they met the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, to protest against the agreement with the steel billionaire, Lakshmi Mittal.

Small print of the deal, leaked to Le Monde, suggests that the government dropped its threat to nationalise the ArcelorMittal steel complex in Florange in return for modest and vague promises.

The government said last Friday that ArcelorMittal had agreed to invest €180m (£146m) over five years and preserve the 630 jobs threatened by plans to close two blast furnaces. The confidential agreement obtained by Le Monde suggests that less than one-third of this represents new investment by the British-based tycoon. ArcelorMittal promised to mothball the furnaces for possible use in an EU-funded project. The leaked agreement reveals that the steel company has little faith the project will go ahead.