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Strikes shake EU stainless steel mills

The European stainless steel industry is currently experiencing strikes and work stoppages in major mills across both northern and southern Europe. These disruptions underscore the vulnerability of the supply situation for stainless steel in the region, even without external influences exacerbating the situation. There’s a call for action from the European Commission in Brussels to prioritize economic stability over political patronage.

In Finland, strikes have been ongoing since December 2023, affecting companies like Outokumpu Stainless and recently extending to the group’s own port operator and logistics service provider in Tornio. Meanwhile, Spain is grappling with an indefinite strike by steelworkers in Cádiz, now entering its second week. The strike has also impacted the operations of the Spanish manufacturer’s port. The situation is exacerbated by a prolonged wage dispute between Spanish parties since early 2023.

These strikes have resulted in the blockage of several million tons of melt shop capacity in Europe, significantly limiting supply options for flat rolled stainless steel in coil and sheet forms. Additionally, the ongoing anti-circumvention proceedings against stainless steel, driven by historically low imports to Europe, further compound the supply challenges.

Thorsten Gerber, CEO of the Gerber Group, expressed frustration with the situation, particularly criticizing the perceived lack of action and intelligence in Brussels. He questioned the efficacy of the European Commission’s decision-making processes, suggesting that intelligence within the Commission may have shifted to positions within the steel lobby.

Regarding Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s comments on potential exports of hydrogen and green steel from Mauritania to the EU, Gerber criticized the timing of such statements, particularly given the publication of a Safeguard Review in the Official Journal of the EU. This highlights concerns about the disconnect between policy priorities and the immediate challenges facing the European stainless steel industry.

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