BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- ArcelorMittal workers in France and Belgium said Thursday the company has told them it would stop steel output at some plants this winter as demand drops.
The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, the world's largest, declined to confirm it would temporarily halt output but said it was "taking prudent and responsible steps to adapt supply to demand in the light of present market conditions."
It said it will provide details when it reports third-quarter earnings on Nov. 5.
The company has already announced a 15-percent cut in European output as its main customers -- the construction and the car industries -- see sales slip.
Trade union representatives in France said management at the Fos-sur-Mer plant had told workers that it would reduce output and asked workers to take vacations of up to 16 days from Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. One furnace would cease work until the end of January, said Alain Nougue, a delegate from the CGT.
Another steel plant at Florange in eastern France would also stop output for the month of December, Jean-Marc Verin of the CFDT union told the AP.
In Belgium, local press said workers had been told that ArcelorMittal plants at Genk and Chatelet would cease production for four weeks at the end of the year while facilities at Seraing and Ghent would decrease output levels.
French newspaper Le Figaro quoted French trade union officials as saying 13 European plants would temporarily stop work -- including three in Germany. ArcelorMittal refused to comment on the reports.
European steelmakers warned Monday they are facing a difficult market climate as demand dries up and rival steel imports from China rise.
The Eurofer association -- which counts ArcelorMittal as a member -- said the market was oversupplied and might only rebound at the end of 2009.
Business and consumer confidence in the 15-nation area slipped to a 15-year low on Thursday as companies worried about falling sales and said they expected to employ fewer people.