Thursday, July 20, 2006

Workers dying at Mittal's steel plant

Workers dying at Mittal's steel plant

LONDON: Controversy surrounds a Romanian steel plant bought by NRI tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, with a report saying that scores of workers have died or were injured in accidents on the site.

Some 25 people have been killed and another 254 injured at the Galati plant in eastern Romania since it was bought in late 2001 by Mittal, the world's largest steel magnate, said a report in The Sunday Telegraph.

Mittal's purchase of the business caused controversy after disclosures that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had sent a letter to the Romanian government endorsing the bid after it had succeeded, just weeks after Mittal donated 125,000 pounds to the Labour Party, the report said, adding Mittal had last year donated 2 million pounds to Labour.

Last month one worker died and three others were injured after being set ablaze at the Romanian plant's oxygen unit. The three survivors are still in critical condition, with more than 70 per cent burns.

There have been six fatalities at the plant so far this year, state safety inspectors said.

The company disputed the inspectors' death and injury figures, but admitted that over the same five-year period 17 employees have died from accidents and another 203 have suffered injuries which prevented them from working.

It had sacked five managers in response to the most recent incident, which it blamed on "safety procedures not being applied".

Trade union officials said some of those injured have been permanently disabled and Gheorghe Tiber, a lawyer with the Steel Workers Solidarity Union who worked at the plant for 23 years, is threatening to take the company to court over the latest accident which he blamed on poor management and lack of effort to improve safety conditions.


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