Threat of closure looms large over domestic steel plants

By Anestis Dokas

The local steel industry has reached the point of no return according to market experts, as the companies’ course toward closure cannot be reversed despite their efforts to stay alive. Government measures appear to be too little, too late and employees are expecting the worst possible scenario.

Domestic demand has reverted to levels unseen since 1962 and the first half of this year has seen the sector hit by huge losses as construction activity is virtually nonexistent. The plants that are still open only operate night shifts from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when the power rates are lower, and only from Mondays to Fridays.

The measures announced by the government, amounting to 150 million euros and involving a reduction in natural gas and oil costs, can only help the plants keep going until December, although they are yet to be implemented.

Sources have told Kathimerini that the management of the Constantinos Angelopoulos group will likely reopen the Halyvourgiki SA plant at Aspropyrgos on Monday due to the expiration of the 192 employees’ suspension period. However no one can say what will happen in the following weeks unless there is a rebound in orders.

In contrast, the news from the Nikos Manesis group’s Hellenic Halyvourgia is even worse as the company plans to start handing out dismissal notices to its 100 employees and giving them their severance pay dictated by law.

One steel company official told Kathimerini that “the government announced its measures, but everything has frozen due to the upcoming elections. It is obviously not interested in the sector as the situation is now irreversible for most plants.” The fact that banks aren’t providing any credit relief to the industry’s companies unless they submit a viable business plan is clearly hurting the firms too.

“What steel firms are asking for is the application in Greece of the same regulations that have applied for years in other European Union countries, such as Italy,” the president of the the Association of Hellenic Steel Industries, Alexandros Tiktopoulos, told Kathimerini, in reference to taxation and power rates, among others.