Commenting on the now uncertain future for the Tata steel operation in the UK, the general secretary of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, said today (Wednesday) that the growing chorus of calls for renationalisation cannot be ignored by the Conservative government.
Len McCluskey, whose union represents tens of thousands of steel and manufacturing workers, said that the message must go out now from the Prime Minister that he will take all steps to keep the steel plants functioning and people in work, and that this is vital in order to send the most positive message to potential buyers that the UK is serious about steel manufacturing.
Len McCluskey said: “We are now in the grip of an industrial crisis. Decisions taken in the days to come will determine not just the futures of 19,000 workers and their families, across 14 sites, but the very success of this government’s own economic programme.
“This is the time for the government to say categorically, without hesitation, that these assets will be taken into safe-keeping by the nation because without them our economy will not flourish. We are already seeing jobs going in the supply chain because of the uncertainty over Tata’s future – our fear is this will snowball if insecurity is allowed to swirl around our steel sector.
“The unity of voices – from business to government – to say that temporary nationalisation is the way forward must not be ignored. This helped save the Scottish plants. It has ensured that the Ilva plant in Italy survived – it must be deployed for the rest of the Tata operation.
“These plants are profitable, with the best workers producing some of the best quality products in the world. Every single one of these plants and its workers should be regarded as a national asset and as such it is government’s duty to safeguard them for the nation.
“Such is the scale of the matters before us that the Prime Minister must assume charge of the strategy from here on in. This will send the clear signal to the workforce, the industry and potential buyers that the government is serious and driven about saving this foundation industry.
“In addition, the government must act now where the Budget stood silent. We need energy costs reduced. Tariffs on cheap imports must rise to the level where they do make an impact – the UK government could do this today.
“Anything less that active government intervention will see this vital sector lost and with it our capacity as a major nation to support our own economy. Billions of pounds have been committed by the Conservative government to the welcome project of renewing our infrastructure but unless this involves UK steel, the promised growth from this initiative will not materialise. In addition, there is the certain pain that will be felt by communities, local economies and the national economy of sending tens of thousands of skilled workers to the dole.
“We have urged Tata too that is has obligations to this workforce and the people of this country. There should be no `cut and run’ from them. They must give all parties the time to find a buyer and retain the industry so that it can manufacture the steel we need, not simply process cheaper, poor quality imported products.
“Unite extends a hand to the government to say that we will work with them on all serious efforts to keep our steel sector alive.”
For further information, please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861 or Alex Flynn on 07967 665 869
Notes to editors
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.