steel plant

The Steel Plant



own former mainstream
rural prevent put an end
region state (3) authorities
steel plant (3) disappointed
slogan election do its part
tariff priority in our own interest
left (3) desperate unemployment
unfair right (4) argument (2)
wage pillar (2) competition
boost lumber depress (2)
appeal abandon follow suit
dogma witness measure (2)
risk manner put an end
deny get along wishful thinking
abroad admit (2) protectionism
local hard time in the face of
aim survive competition
timber sawmill on the right track
steady enforce grind to a halt
ensure remain sustainable
give up integrate woodworking
tough round (2) with respect to
revive livelihood left high and dry
sever cheer (2) rather (2)
lousy impose severance package








Last autumn, two-hundred workers lost their jobs here in Beautor, northern France, when their steel plant closed.

It’s owner, the Russian steel maker, NLMK had wanted to sell it, but couldn’t find a buyer.

For more than a century, the plant had been a pillar of the local economy.

The workers say they can’t understand why the government did nothing to prevent the closure.

Thomas Parent, Former NLMK Employee: “The authorities should protect our industries, especially in small towns and rural regions.

We were a really good team.

In Belgium, the regional government bought 49% of an NLMK plant.

Why does the Belgium state do it, and the French state doesn’t?”

Many of the former steel workers are disappointed, not only by the government, but also by the mainstream political parties.

The first round of the French election is to be held on the twenty-third of April.

Alain Skocz, is out of work: “Neither the Left nor the Right have done anything for us. I’m going to vote for the National Front. At least they’ll send all the foreign workers home.

Then we’ll get their jobs.

Lots of foreigners have been taking our jobs.

We French people should have priority.”

Many companies in this part of northern France have closed down over the past few decades. The unemployment rate in some towns is sixteen percent or higher.

People here feel abandoned — left high and dry.

Many find the arguments or the slogans of the far-right National Front appealing.

Five mayors in the region represent the party.

One of them is Franck Briffaut in Villers-Cotterets.

Franck Briffaut, Mayor of Villers-Cotterets: “We want tariffs to put an end to unfair competition from abroad. And the euro is bad for us. We can’t boost exports by having a weaker currency — only by depressing wages.”

He sounds rather like Donald Trump. The new US president also wants to impose tariffs on imports to the United States.

Franck Briffaut, Mayor of Villers-Cotterets: “I think he’s got the right idea. Of course, the Americans want to act in their own interests. But they’re asking the right questions. And others will follow suit.

What we are witnessing is the end of a certain economic model that’s been sold to us in such a dogmatic manner.”

Briffaut denies that protectionist measures could harm French firms, for example if they have to pay more for imports.

He believes the risks of an open economy and of an open society are greater.

Franck Briffaut, National Front: “It’s dangerous to admit 300,000 foreigners every year; they don’t want to integrate. We have to put an end to this political wishful thinking that says we can all just hold hands and get along.

That’s not the way the world works.”

People here want to see Trump-style protectionism enforced in France too.

Mayor Briffaut says many want to see change, including the local estate agents for example.

Sylvie Delpierre, Real Estate Agent: “Many of our clients are having a hard time keeping their business running in the face of tough competition from Eastern Europe, where pay is much lower.

That hits small companies especially hard.

Mr. Trump is on the right track when he says he wants to see jobs at the local and national level. We saw how he dealt with the carmakers.

The aim is to bring jobs back home.”

The sawmill at the edge of town is run by Eric Charpentier.

He says French companies need some degree of protection, including his own. It’s now competing with companies as far away as China, which buy up lots of timber from France.

He says the situation is not sustainable.

Eric Charpentier, Dequecker Lumber Mill: “We need a steady supply of raw materials, otherwise our factory will grind to a halt.

The government should ensure that French timber remains in France so that our lumber and woodworking industry can survive.”

Charpentier says the European Union needs to do its part as well, to protect European industries.

Eric Charpentier, Dequecker Lumber Mill: “The EU should take tougher measures to protect the economy, with respect to imports and exports. They could learn a lesson or two from China — and now from the US as well.”

It’s too late to revive the steel plant in Beautor. Other jobs in the area are hard to find.

Of the two-hundred who have lost their livelihoods, only thirty have so far found a new job.

Alain Skocz, is out of work: “We meet and try to cheer each other up, especially when somebody is feeling really desperate and is having a particularly lousy day.

We’re there for each other, even though NLMK isn’t there for us anymore.”

They’re not giving up without a fight: they’re filing suit, demanding a better severance package. Some spent their entire working life at the plant.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Many industrial workers have been laid off in northern France. True or false?

2. Who do they blame? Do they blame anyone, i.e. the company, the government, the EU, globalization, themselves? Why do they blame the state?

3. The laid off workers love the National Front. They have always been avid supporters of the National Front. Is this right or wrong? Do many people admire Donald Trump?

4. According to the mayor and real estate agent, what are the causes of the situation or problems?

5. Do the mayor, real estate agent and people have proposals or solutions to the situation? What are his ideas or proposals? Are there any potential drawbacks or disadvantages of his proposals?

6. Is the sawmill operator happy with free trade? What does he say?

7. The workers have all found new jobs. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. Has parts of your city or country experienced an economic downturn? What are the reasons for this?

B. Do many people feel angry, frustrated, hopeless and disappointed? Has anyone felt happy and elated?

C. There are populist political parties and demagogues. Yes or no?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What are some solutions to this situation?

Comments are closed.