Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte and industry minister Luigi Di Maio on Thursday welcomed a deal hammered out with trade unions that paves the way for steel giant Arcelor Mittal's contested takeover of the troubled Ilva steel plant in Taranto.
"This an absolutely excellent result," said Conte. "Di Maio has done a superb job in difficult circumstances."
"After 18 hours of negotiations and a long battle waged by worker representatives to get better conditions, and accord has been reached on Ilva," said Di Maio.
"The final agreement is without doubt the best possible result in the worst possible conditions......getting there was really tough," said Di Maio, who witnessed the inking of the deal.
Under the agreement, a total 10,700 out of Ilva's current 13,000 workforce will be re-hired immediately and the rest by 2024, while the company will earmark 250 million euros for layoff incentives for workers - some 100,000 euros per person.
Ilva workers will vote on the deal which commits ArcelorMittal to investing some 4.2 billion euros to improve its plan to cut pollution at the Taranto plant in southern Italy, which has been blamed for hundreds of cancer-related deaths.
The plant has the biggest steel-producing capacity in Europe and ArchelorMittal signed a preliminary accord with the previous centre-left Italian government last year to buy Ilva, but the populist government queried the validity of the contract when it took office in June.
Di Maio's Five-Star Movement had previously called for the Taranto plant to be shut down but with Ilva due to run out of cash later in the month unless the government injected more cash and with thousands of jobs at stake, he said after the deal with unions that he would no longer oppose the ArcelorMittal takeover.
Ilva was put under state-controlled special administration in 2015 after magistrates in 2012 said the site had to be cleaned up or it would be shut down. Output at the plant has fallen to less than five million tonnes a year from over 10 million tonnes annually at its peak.