Something worse was expected. At the end of the economic and social committee (CSE) that took place on Wednesday, September 21 in Saint-Saulve, in the north, the CGT delegate from Ascoval, Nacim Bardi, was divided. It is true that the steelworks will reduce its size by half until the end of the year, but “Shareholders will stick their hands in their pockets and maintain their medium and long-term development strategy in the ‘green’ steel market”.
For this plant, which mainly supplies the Hayange steel plant on the Moselle with billets, steel bars transformed into rails for the railway, production will be reduced. “by no more than 50%”, says Klaus Richter, the German president of Ascoval. In October, electric ovens will be turned off on Mondays. In November and December they will only work from Wednesday to Sunday morning.
Cédric Orban, the CEO, welcomes the reaction of the unions, who accepted “without difficulty night work and off-peak hours to limit [les] costs”. Above all, they were somewhat reassured to learn that the creation of a fifth team in the spring of 2023 stood, for the time being. “It is a good signal”he wants to believe Nacim Bardi, who, like all the steel workers in Ascoval, has lived through too many roller coasters for six years.
In 2016, the tube manufacturer Vallourec, which created this steelworks in 1975, announced its closure. It was thunder for the 500 employees and the people of Valenciennes, still traumatized by the slow death throes of the steel giant Usinor in the late 1980s. In the face of the outcry caused by the Vallourec decision and thanks to the mobilization of employees and elected officials, buyers are found who, one after another, will go bankrupt. The latter, the British British Steel, will end up selling its French assets, including Ascoval and the Hayange steelworks.
In August 2021, after four years of ups and downs, the takeover bid for the German steel company Saarstahl was validated. At that time, there were only 270 employees left in Saint-Saulve (300 today), but hope returns when Saarstahl announces that it wants to invest in green steel, that is, produced with electric furnaces and not gas stoves. With Ascoval, described as “one of the most modern factories in Europe”the steelmaker has a fine tool and, above all, it is fully electric. “An industrial gem, unique in France”by the communist Fabien Roussel, who was one of those who fought to save Ascoval.
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