Just 14 per cent of UK voters believe the government’s handling of job losses in the steel industry has been effective according to a new poll which also shows that almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) want the government to intervene to ensure the UK steel industry’s long term survival.
The new poll by Survation for Britain’s largest union, Unite, comes as business secretary Sajid Javid prepares to meet European ministers to discuss the steel crisis in the UK and EU.
Showing that voters from all parties are deeply unimpressed by the government’s response to the crisis, the poll found that three in five (60 per cent) of all voters and a majority of Conservative voters (54 per cent) thought the government should explore the temporary nationalisation of the industry.
Elsewhere in the poll, almost seven in 10 (67 per cent) of all voters and nearly two thirds of Conservative voters (61 per cent) believed the government’s priority should be safeguarding jobs and orders in the industry, rather than just dealing with the symptoms of the crisis by assisting redundant steelworkers to start their own business.
On public infrastructure projects there was overwhelming support for the government to pursue a British steel first policy. Three quarters of all voters and 73 per cent of Conservative voters said the government should do all it can to ensure publically funded contracts support the UK steel industry. Just 13 per cent believed the government should import steel from other countries to seek the lowest price, regardless of origin.
The crisis to hit the steel industry also appears to have had a knock on effect on the government’s claims to wider economic competence. Nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) say that the threat to steel undermines the government’s claims to be creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Almost half of the Tory voters (49 per cent) polled shared that view.
More broadly, only 36 per cent of those polled see any sign of recovery in their local area, and 59 per cent say that there are not enough decent jobs in their community.
The union is also urging action in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to support steel communities, including relief from further punishing central government cuts. 70 per cent of those polled back this, including seven in ten Tory voters.
Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “It is clear that the government is failing to convince even its own voters that it is doing the right thing by this core national industry. The key test for the ministers is not more warm words, but the action they take to intervene to save steelmaking and manufacturing. A continued failure to do so will rock public confidence in the government’s handling of the broader economy and leave people thinking if it can’t do the right thing by a strategically vital industry, what can we trust the government to get right?
“Our manufacturing sector is the backbone of Britain. It creates wealth for the exchequer and decent, skilled work for our people. It is criminal to let skilled men and women lose the jobs we need for our nation to remain competitive only for them to end up making sandwiches and stacking shelves.”
Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, added: “It is no surprise that the public gets that we need strategic intervention to shore up manufacturing and steel now, combined with a wider industrial plan to retain and develop this vital sector of our economy.
“It has been revealing to learn, and extremely saddening, that government knew of the looming crisis at Redcar and did nothing to prevent its closure. This was an appalling absence of responsibility towards vital jobs and whole communities. It cannot happen again.
“There is unanimity right across society on this issue. Business leaders, unions, MPs and the public all want robust action in the UK to save our steel. It is only the government that is determined to sit apart from this consensus revealing itself again to be totally out of step with public opinion.”
In addition to seeking additional help for the hit communities, Unite has called for the government to make it clear what of the 40 main infrastructure projects currently in the pipeline, such as HS2 and rail and road building improvements across England, will use UK steel, and to move to ensure that contracts are placed with the industry as a matter of urgency.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
Survation, on behalf of Unite the Union, interviewed 1,013 GB adults aged 18+ from the 27th-28th October 2015. Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
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