Chemistry Board

Workers occupied the site of two idle ArcelorMittal steel furnaces in northeastern France on Monday as management and unions met in Paris to decide the fate of a plant that has become a symbol of the country's industrial decline.

Some 40 workers blocked access to management offices at the steel mill in Florange, in France's traditional industrial heartland of Lorraine, where two blast furnaces have been out of operation since last year due to lack of demand.

Management were due to announce a decision on the fate of the furnaces, which employ some 550 of the 2,800 workers at the Florange plant, after a meeting with unions at its French headquarters.

The rest of the plant is operational.

With French unemployment breaking the psychological barrier of 3 million for the first time since June 1999, the Lorraine region has been hard hit by a slump in industrial demand, particularly for the car sector, which has traditionally consumed much of Florange's output.

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