The number of personnel at Zaporizhstal has decreased by 20% since the beginning of the war, but the plant continues to work

Ukrainian steel industry and heavy industry is facing a shortage of staff as most of the workers are at the front. In particular, the number of employees at Zaporizhstal has decreased by 20% since the start of the full-scale war, but the plant continues to operate, according to a press release from Metinvest Group.

Zaporizhstal is currently the largest steel plant in Ukraine, as Azovstal and Ilyich Iron and Steel Works are destroyed and are located in the temporarily occupied territory. Before the war, the company employed about 10,000 people. Currently, only 8,000 remain. Almost 1,100 employees are fighting at the front, and more than 500 employees have relocated.

Work at the plant continues despite the almost daily shelling of Zaporizhzhia by Russians. The plant’s blast furnaces were suspended at the beginning of the full-scale invasion for the second time in the history of the enterprise, but a month later the situation at the front stabilized and the operation of blast furnaces was resumed, first two and later the third.

«It is impossible to suspend the operation of the blast furnace. It will take a month to restore it. That is why there are steelmakers in Ukraine who do not leave their jobs under any circumstances. They act like soldiers on duty,» said Roman Slobodyanuk , general director of Zaporizhstal.

In the current situation, it is almost impossible to find qualified workers. Instead, Zaporizhstal trains new people, which takes a lot of time. A person in charge of blast furnaces has to master the profession within five years. It takes six months to learn how to perform the simplest operations.

«Steel industry is a demanding industry: you have to understand what you are doing. Some professions require six months of training, and some five years. We have lost a significant part of the knowledge pool. We are trying to compensate for it, but it is challenging,» Slobodianiuk added.

Many hardy and skilled workers who are accustomed to discipline and difficult working conditions are in demand in the Armed Forces. At the same time, without them, the industry is in decline.

Many employees of mining plants were also mobilized to the front. In particular, the Ingulets Mining and Processing Plant (Ingulets GOK) employed 4.5 thousand workers until February 24, 2022, and now only 2.4 thousand people remain.

«820 of our workers are at the front, while 26 have been killed, around 20 are in captivity and 20 are missing. We are short of employees, a lot of people are at war. Often one person has to do the work of two people. We have much more work during each shift because there are very few of us,» comments Mykhailo Tsurkan, HR director of Ingulets GOK.

In addition to staff shortages, companies in the industry face problems with logistics, energy, and access to spare parts. These factors are holding back capacity utilization, export growth and tax payments.

As GMK Center reported previously, in 2023, Metinvest reduced steel production by 31% y/y – to 2.02 million tons, pig iron by 36% y/y – to 1.76 million tons, and finished products by 18% y/y – to 2.29 million tons. Iron ore output increased by 4% y/y – to 11.1 million tons, and coal concentrate by 10% y/y – to 5.45 million tons.