Crisis looms for industry as factories expected to announce cuts
THE future of Britain’s struggling steel industry was dealt another blow yesterday as India-owned Tata Steel warned of thousands more potential job losses in the north and Scotland.
The news came as steel unions, company owners and politicians met in the former steel town of Rotherham in Yorkshire to discuss the industry’s plight. Tata warned that 1,200 jobs are under threat in Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire, and in Scotland.
The news follows the closure of ISS steelworks in Teesside with the loss of 3,000 jobs, and more in ancillary industries.
Unions and employers are demanding government support for the industry — but the government maintained its steadfast refusal, with one Tory minister yesterday drawing widespread criticism for saying that the Teesside closure was just a “distraction” from the government’s other plans for a so-called “Northern Powerhouse.”
The “distraction” comment came from Tory MP James Wharton, who is government “Minister for the Northern Powerhouse.”
Labour shadow secretary for business, innovation and skills Angela Eagle said: “These comments from the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse are truly shocking. They reveal the government’s true attitude to steelmaking on Teesside.”
At the Rotherham steel summit, unions and employers spoke with one voice on the need for government intervention and support.
Steel industry union Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “The government scandalously missed opportunities to intervene and protect the industrial assets in Redcar, which has left a community devastated and taxpayers picking up a bill of hundreds of millions to clean the site.
“This must not be allowed to happen again and what has happened in Redcar should focus everyone’s minds.”
He said the current tragedy in the industry was largely due to the government’s lack of a strategy.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “The steel industry is at crisis point. Unless the government pursues an industrial strategy with a ‘steel heart’ then soundbites like Northern Powerhouse and March of the Makers will be nothing more than empty rhetoric for communities who rely on skilled jobs in steel and manufacturing.”
Trade body UK Steel director Gareth Stace said: “We need action that will have a material positive impact on the sector as we cannot afford for this to be a talking shop.”