Unite, the country’s largest union, has backed the findings of the select committee’s excoriating report on the failure of the government to react to warning signs that the industry was facing mounting problems.
Unite was commenting on today’s (Monday 21 December) report by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee, following nearly 5,000 job losses in the steel industry in recent months, which has left it on ‘the verge of terminal decline’.
Unite national officer for steel, Harish Patel said: “Unite echoes many of the findings of the BIS select committee. Inaction by the government at an industry wide level and a failure to intervene at SSI in Redcar has seen a needless loss of skills to the steel industry and left many families facing an uncertain future.
“Our steel industry is a strategic asset to our economy and needs to be at the heart of an active industrial strategy.
“Government ministers have no time to waste and need to turn words into action to secure the future of the steel industry and avoid being seen as doing too little, too late.
“We must never again see a situation where a viable asset like Redcar is lost to the nation because of the government’s ideological opposition to strategic intervention.”
The BIS committee found that, while the government identified the steel industry as of vital importance, Whitehall did not have effective warning systems in place to detect and address mounting problems in the industry.
The committee also found that a lack of action at EU level, and a failure by UK governments to push for EU action, helped leave the UK heavily exposed to Chinese dumping, a global oversupply of steel, and a ‘perfect storm’ of difficulties for the industry.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, chair of the BIS committee said: “In recent months, a series of site closures and job losses at sites including in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire, have dealt a major blow to the UK Steel industry.
“The steel industry is now on the verge of terminal decline. For too long the government failed to be alert to the alarms raised by the industry and act at home to maintain a steel industry in the UK when other European countries were acting to safeguard their own strategic steel industries.
“Industry isn’t looking for a hand-out, it’s looking for a level-playing field: for too long there was little action from the government, with some asks from the industry taking years, if at all, to deliver."
The committee finds that the prospects of future growth in steel sector have been severely damaged by the irrevocable loss of capacity and skills. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and more will go as a result of the impact on businesses in associated supply chains.
The committee regrets that, given the importance with which ministers themselves have held the steel industry, ministers were not able to give more attention to investigating the potential for maintaining existing facilities and preserving the skills base.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.