Tuesday, February 16, 2016

News: Steelworkers march on Brussels


Steelworkers from the region joined bosses and unions to gather in Brussels yesterday to march in protest at the dumping of steel products from China, which is having a big impact on jobs across the EU and violating the principles of free and fair trade.

Over 150 steelworkers from across the UK joined with 5,000 steelworkers from 15 European countries demanding that the EU takes the tough action necessary to save the European steel industry.

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. 720 jobs that are at risk - including 500 in Rotherham - as Tata Steel works through proposals to restructure its speciality and bar business. 1,000's of jobs are under threat in Scunthorpe and Scotland.

More than 500 employees from Tata Steel, Europe's second largest steel producer, were in Brussels including the company's European CEO Karl Koehler (pictured below, right) who said: "I was proud to experience the passionate spirit of our colleagues during the protest.

"Together with our peers in the steel industry we told European leaders loud and clear to stop the tide of unfairly-traded material that threatens our jobs, our industry and our future."

And, calling on EU ministers to provide the industry with a level-playing field, he added: "The European steel industry is in a fierce fight for its future. Huge global overcapacity and unfair trade practices – mainly by China and Russia – have pushed steel prices to historically low levels.

"The dumping of steel below its cost of production will continue as long as our regional, national and European leaders fail to introduce trade defence protections quickly and effectively. Measures so far have been slow and half-hearted."

With a decline in liquid steel production and turnover, Tata Steel reported a pre-tax operational loss of £68m at its European operations for the three months to the end of December, a rise from £25m in the previous quarter and a big change to the profit of £132m reported in the same period last year.

The statement from Tata said: "Surging imports into Europe exerted further pressure on margins in the last quarter. The unprecedented market conditions, made worse by the UK's regulatory costs and strong pound, led to announcements to reduce jobs and mothball assets in the UK – part of an ongoing transformation programme. Regulatory action on a European and national level is needed to enable the business to compete fairly."

In October, Rotherham hosted a top-level summit to discuss the challenges currently facing the global steel industry attended by steel companies, MPs, unions and trade bodies. A number of "asks" of the Government were laid out by steel unions which 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.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the Community union (pictured with Kohler), said: "Steelworkers across Europe are feeling the effects of unfairly traded imports and a lack of government action. Unions and businesses are joining together and with one voice demanding our governments back our steel industry."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel / twitter


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