ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steel maker, said Thursday it was seeking to "optimise its support services" at its European flat carbon steel division, which unions said would translate into thousands of lost jobs.
"To face economic difficulties in Europe, the Flat Carbon Europe division considers it vital to improve and insure competitivity of its activity at all levels," ArcelorMittal said in a written statement to AFP.
The company said that during a European work's council meeting held Wednesday in Luxembourg, management of the ArcelorMittal unit presented its guiding objectives on future organisation in regards to support services, which includes administration, human resources, technology and purchasing.
ArcelorMittal offered no details on its intentions, adding only that each site in the division would carry out their own detailed analysis.
"Worker representatives will be notified in due course on the evolution of this analysis," the company said.
But Edouard Martin, of the French CFDT union, called the objective a "hidden layoff plan" which will bring "several thousand job cuts in Europe, including several hundred in France, especially at the Florange site."
The CFE-CGC union said between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs could be lost out of the 10,000 support jobs concerned in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Romania.
Hit by the economic crisis, the company has closed several sites in Europe and put others on slowdown, including the plant in Florange in northern France.