Monday, November 23, 2015

News: Save Our Steel rally in Sheffield

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Steelworkers, unions and politicians gathered in Sheffield over the weekend to make their voices heard in solidarity as they urge the Government to do more to save the UK steel industry.

Indian-owned steelmaker, Tata Steel has for a long time been warning that continuing cheap imports risk undermining Europe's steel industry and that uncompetitive energy costs and the strength of sterling are hurting its UK operations.

A confirmation is expected soon on the 720 jobs that are at risk - including 500 in Rotherham - as Tata Steel works through proposals to restructure its speciality and bar business. The company recently confirmed proposals affecting 1,200 jobs, mainly in Scunthorpe and Scotland.

General secretaries joined with local representatives from major steel unions, Community, Unite, the GMB and the TUC, at the City Hall. Rotherham MPs John Healey and Sarah Champion were also in attendance.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: "Ministers need to understand that once these jobs, skills and blast furnaces are gone, they're gone forever. Communities with steel in their DNA will be devastated.

"But we'll also be left at the mercy of the international markets, with no control over what we pay for the steel we need.

"Our most urgent priority has to be to save plants and save jobs. One in six steelworkers face losing their jobs. Britain desperately needs a long-term industrial plan, but Ministers have refused to commit to one.

"But as well as the short term action, we need a long-term vision for steel too. Never mind the rhetoric about a Northern Powerhouse. That's all good, but it's just empty words if we won't step up now, and take real action on such a fundamental issue. We need to save our steel."

It is estimated that steel and metals industry delivers £95bn of the country’s GDP, an estimated £12bn in taxes and levies and £7bn in wages and NI contributions to the exchequer.

The "asks" of the Government laid out by steel unions include: action on business rates; a compensation scheme for high-energy users; a commitment to favouring British steel in procurement; and work with the EU on anti-dumping measures to protect British steel from cheap subsidised imports.

Following the steel summit in Rotherham last month, working groups were set up to look at the key issues and a parliamentary inquiry heard from steel industry representatives and MPs following the Tata steel redundancies. The government has also confirmed to the steel industry that it will be able to take advantage of special flexibilities to comply with new EU rules on emissions and further lobbying has been carried out at the EU.

Images: Community Union / twitter

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