(ANSA) - Taranto, September 26 - Tensions were running high Wednesday at the troubled ILVA steel plant as workers protesting its shutdown clashed with others who had health and environmental concerns. As many as 400 workers were protesting outside the plant in this southern Italian city, some fighting court orders that are forcing parts of the plant to shut down during environmental upgrades. At the same time, other workers were rallying in support of whatever actions are needed to improve the steelworks that have been blamed for decades of pollution believed to have caused cancers and heightened risk of death in the community. All were waiting for the results of the latest appeals by the company made public Monday to continue operating the steelworks as the upgrades are made. Some of the protesters, fighting for their jobs in a region of high unemployment, climbed up to a 70-meter high platform to draw attention to the fears. Tuesday evening, near one of the smelter's giant smokestacks, some unfurled a banner calling for "Labour and Dignity" before spending the night high above the ground to continue their protest. "Ours is a peaceful protest, we are not causing harm to anyone," one protestor told Italian television, adding he hoped a compromise between prosecutors and the company could be found. "We hope that you find a solution...We are willing to do anything to defend our work, we have children, we have family, we have mortgages. We hope that all will be successful". Others later raised banners calling for unity in protecting health in the community and among the ILVA workforce. At the same time, the city's Archbishop Philip Santoro called for a day of prayers on Friday, along with a special Mass "for unity" in dealing with the economic, social, and health problems swirling around ILVA. ILVA has for months been at the heart of a major industrial and environmental dispute that fuelled headlines when a court in the port town ordered the shutdown of its smelting facilities and mineral park in July. The court accused ILVA of emanating plumes of toxic dust and other emissions that threaten the health of nearby residents. The partial shutdown sparked worker protests, strikes and a flurry of meetings between government and business leaders to find a way to save the plant, which is considered crucial for Italian industry, and an important source of employment in Italy's underdeveloped south.
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