Joint statement from the national trade union steel co-ordinating committee
Steelworkers meeting in London today have made three new demands on government to secure UK steelmaking. 100 steelworkers from across the UK gathered at the TUC’s Congress House to formulate a plan for their industry following Tata Steel’s decision to divest its UK assets.
The unions have set out the following three demands of government:
1. To secure the customer base, the government must take immediate action to guarantee the production of Tata’s UK steel operations so that customers are not lost following Tata Steel’s announcement.
2. The government must work to ensure the integrity of the business is guaranteed. SSI has shown that a blast-furnace only operation in the UK is not sustainable. Allowing Tata or other investors to cherry-pick assets will put steelmaking at risk.
3. The plants are viable but they require investment. The issue isn't competing on cost but the attractiveness of the product range. This means the business needs the investment originally planned by Tata – understood to be £1.5 billion over 10 years. This level of investment should be achievable given that any buyer would be gaining control of assets worth £4 billion. But government support is needed to bridge the two to three years it will take to get back to self-sustainability. Within European rules, the government can support the business with:
a. Green investment - in a new power plant, the coke ovens and the blast furnace to make Port Talbot a world class example of low-carbon, blast furnace steel making.
b. R&D investment - to enable the business to develop high value products that can secure new markets and sustain the business.
c. Skills investment - to support a transition to high-value, low carbon steel production.
The steel unions have engaged expert steel industry advisors Syndex UK to help with further development of their plans.
Speaking after the meeting, Harish Patel, Unite national officer, said: “Steelworkers are united in their view of what the government must do. This business should have a future but it needs immediate action to reassure customers and protect the integrity of the business. We don’t want to hear more warm words from ministers. We want government to work with us to deliver this plan, invest in the future of steelmaking and protect the jobs of thousands of steelworkers across the UK.”
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: “It was clear from our meeting today that steelworkers are the guardians of their industry and they know what action is needed to secure the future of steelmaking in the UK. There needs to be a step-change in the level of government involvement with Tata, its customers and the unions and this is why we have set out our three demands. First of all, the government needs to reassure the customer base. Second they need to make it clear to Tata that the integrity of the business must be maintained, Tata must be a responsible seller and they must allow time for a deal to be done. Finally, the government must invest in our steel industry to give it a future.”
Dave Hulse, GMB national officer said: “There is no time for further delay from this government. They need to be loud and clear to instil confidence in customers and steelworkers that this business will have a future. Government must also hold Tata to being a responsible seller. You can’t rush selling off the UK steel industry and needs everybody to work together in the best interests of our industrial security and steel communities across the UK.”