Pressure on Italy to appoint new Ilva chief as losses mount

Tue Jun 3, 2014 10:03am EDT

* Union FIOM-CGIL calls on gov to replace commissioner Bondi

* Renzi pledges his commitment to finding solution for Ilva

* Over 20,000 jobs at stake if mill collapses

By Maytaal Angel

LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Italy's government must find a new boss for its failing Ilva steel mill, stakeholders warned, as the scandal-hit plant has failed to attract the investors needed to safeguard the thousands it employs in the economically deprived south.

Ilva was put under special administration after magistrates seized 8.1 billion euros from its owners the Riva family, amid allegations by prosectutors that the plant's toxic emissions caused abnormally high rates of cancer.

But special commissioner Enrico Bondi, appointed last year to run the plant and oversee a cleanup programme has failed to staunch losses of millions of euros a week, say stakeholders, meaning the 20,000 people Ilva employs in the southern Italian city of Taranto are still at risk of losing their jobs.

"There is an urgent need that the government take its decisions about the choice of a new commissioner and about a new business plan fitter to the ongoing industrial events," Gianni Venturi, the national co-ordinator for Italian union Fiom-Cgil, told Reuters.

Italian steel industry body Federacciai estimates the plant is currently losing cash at a rate of 60-80 million euros a month.

Last week, the ministry for economic development held meetings with top global steelmaker ArcelorMittal, and with representatives of the Riva family, in a bid to convince them to invest in the plant.

"The government focus is a good thing, they realise its urgent and they're reflecting on what course of action to take," said Federacciai President Antonio Gozzi.

He added: "From a cash point of view I don't know the situation but I believe they have some time before collapse - maybe months."

Both Riva family representatives and Italian steel producer Marcegaglia and have said they are ready to invest in Ilva if they are given clarity on the true financial position of the plant. ArcelorMittal has declined to comment.

"Renzi told a democratic party meeting last week that the government wants to take action in finding a solution for Ilva. Substantially, this only means that commissioner Bondi will be replaced," said an industry source.

Italy's steel sector is Europe's second-largest after Germany, and is estimated to account for some 4 percent of the country's GDP if jobs in the entire steelmaking chain are taken into account. (Additional reporting by Clara Denina and Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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