William Malcolm

Czech Steelworkers Protest Cheap Chinese Imports

Several hundred Czech steelworkers gathered in Ostrava to demonstrate in defense of the European steel industry.

According to the demonstrators, European steelworks are threatened by imports of cheap steel from countries outside of the European Union. If the EU does not extend protection measures, which are due to expire next June, it could lead to companies going out of business and losing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“The steel industry has been working for a long time to maintain fair conditions for competition in steel production and sales. Unfortunately, the European Union is not complying with this. If the European institutions continue in this trend, it could mean the end of European steel companies,” Chairman of the Kovo Trade Union Jaroslav Souček said.

Representatives of metallurgical companies said that European steel mills must adhere to strict environmental and social rules, so they can’t compete with imported steels from China, Turkey, Ukraine, and other countries where similarly strict legislation does not apply. According to steelmakers, Czech companies cannot even change technologies fast enough to meet more stringent EU rules. Also, investments in innovations will cost billions of crowns.

“We don’t want anything other than equal conditions, that is, to derail the course and set the rules. Not to learn during the 200-meter race that we have to run 15,” said Ivo Žižka, HR Director of Třinecké železárny.

EU steelmakers and the Czech government, which they say do little for the industry, have called for action to save the steel industry. For example, they demand that domestic steel be preferred in public procurement.

“Mainly, let it get to Brussels and our government because we want to hear clearly how they will help the transformation of the Czech steel industry to be green by 2050, and therefore by 2030 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55 percent, as the European Commission is now proposing. , “said Roman Ďurčo, chairman of OS Kovo at Vítkovice Steel.

Trade unionists want to continue similar events. They would like to hold a big demonstration in Brussels after the coronavirus restrictions are over. “We will certainly not slow down if we see that there is a risk of job losses,” said Ďurčo.

The chairman of OS Kovo Liberty Czech Republic, Petr Slanina, stated that if steel production in the Czech Republic ended, it would never resume. “We already feel generational problems in factories because young people aren’t rushing there at the moment, and if we don’t pass it on to them, once it stops, steel won’t come back here. Then we’ll be completely dependent on imports,” Slanina said.

Demonstrations with the familiar slogan “Europe needs steel, steel needs Europe” took place across Europe today. One massive demonstration in Brussels planned initially, could not take place due to coronavirus restrictions.

Employees from the local companies Liberty Ostrava and Vítkovice Steel came to Ostrava for the demonstration, and buses brought workers from Třinecké železárny. Trade unionists had several banners such as “Importing steel into the EU = importing an environmental disaster.”

Due to coronavirus measures, participation was limited. For example, hygienists did not recommend the involvement of people from more distant companies. The organizers measured the participants’ temperature; the demonstrators had veils and tried to keep the distances.