Partial shutdown begins at ILVA steel plant

Eight former and current managers face charges

Partial shutdown begins at ILVA steel plant

(ANSA) - Taranto, July 30 - The court-ordered shutdown of six areas of the ILVA steel plant, Italy's largest, began on Monday in the southern port city of Taranto. A Taranto judge on Thursday ordered the shutdown of the mineral park and smelting areas of the plant and put eight managers and ex-managers, including the owner, Emilio Riva, under house arrest, triggering the mobilization of thousands of workers in Taranto and Genoa fearful for their jobs. The steel plant and its managers are accused of contaminating areas near the plant with toxic pink dust and fumes, including dioxins and PCB's, that have been linked to deaths and increased levels of some diseases since 1995. Consumer organization Codacons filed a petition on Monday at the Taranto courthouse against national and local health and environmental authorities for their failure to take action over the years. Taranto steel workers returned to the ILVA steel plant Saturday, after striking, blockading city entrance roads, and occupying city hall on Friday. The plant employs over 11,000 people. A short-lived demonstration of workers from an ILVA plant in Genoa, fearful that the Taranto stoppage would shut down Genoa production as well, dissolved when the local prefect assured union leaders that the judge's order might soon be reversed. The Taranto ILVA steel workers limited their action to striking for two hours per shift, allowing the plant to function and begin procedures for partial shutdown. A delegation of a few dozen workers entered a Taranto city council meeting Monday when, after four hours of debate, Taranto mayor Stefano Ippazio pledged to set up a "control room" to monitor the situation. The city council approved a statement expressing solidarity with steel workers and their families as well as for pollution victims and their families. A scheduled meeting between Lecce prosecutor Giuseppe Vignola, who is involved in the criminal case against ILVA, and ILVA business representatives was postponed due to "overlapping commitments". Considered strategic for the Italian steel industry and the sectors related to it, Italian environmental minister Corrado Clini vowed government support to keep the ILVA steel plant in production on Friday. "We want production to continue," Clini told Mediaset. "The cabinet has confirmed its commitment by signing a memorandum of understanding, and the government is working to uphold it," Clini declared, referring to a government pledge Thursday to allocate 336 million euros for an ILVA-related environmental clean up. On Sunday, the Taranto Catholic diocese announced a prayer vigil on behalf of ILVA steel workers and their families, which may take place Wednesday, when Taranto bishop Filippo Santoro returns from a trip to Brazil. New steel worker demonstrations are scheduled for August 2, on the eve of the first hearing to re-examine the judge's shutdown and arrest order.

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