Steel-making giant ArcelorMittal said on Thursday that it might slash up to 9,000 jobs across the group worldwide through voluntary redundancies to cope with the economic slump.
The company, by far the biggest steelmaker in the world, said that the measures targeted sales and administrative employees not involved in making steel, and could potentially reach three percent of its global work force.
The group, facing pressure from Chinese imports according to a union representantive, said the cuts were aimed at reducing costs by one billion dollars (760 million euros) "in response to the current economic situation.
"This has been a very difficult decision for the company to take as all of our employees are extremely important to us," executive vice president Bernard Fontana said.
"Sadly however the global economic reality means that it is only sensible to adopt such measures," he added.
Although steel prices posted strong gains in the first half of the year, they have since crashed as demand has dried up as car makers slash production and construction projects are put on hold.
ArcelorMittal shares, which have lost 64 percent of their value so far this year, were showing a gain of 3.38 percent to 19.40 euros in mid-afternoon trading in Paris in a broadly rising market.
A union representative told AFP that 6,000 of the planned job cuts would be in Europe.
On Tuesday, the group said it would slash about 2,400 jobs at its factory in the US state of Indiana by mid-January because of a drop in orders.
In the face of slumping demand for steel, the group earlier this month doubled previously announced production cuts in the last quarter of the year to 30 percent from 15 percent.
ArcelorMittal management called employee representatives into its Luxembourg headquarters for an emergency meeting to explain the cuts, the company said.
"The group's situation has deteriorated due to strong steel exports from emerging economy countries, especially China, which sells its steel by cutting prices," said Edouard Martin, a representative of the French CFDT union.
Earlier this month, the Eurofer European steelmakers association called for anti-dumping measures to be slapped on imports that are found to benefit from market-distorting subsidies.
The European Commission currently has a series of anti-dumping investigations underway targetting Chinese steel products but has not yet taken any action.