Step up on steel Unite tells government as poll finds ...

Step up on steel Unite tells government as poll finds public wants action for core industry

13 September 2016

British voters are backing the country’s steel industry with a widespread call for action by the government to step up its support for the beleaguered sector.

According to Unite the union, which commissioned the poll by ComRes published today, (Tuesday 12 September), with the future of flagship Tata sites at Port Talbot and Shotton among those still hanging in the balance, placing tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly employed at risk, the public and the unions are at one in their clamour for action from ministers.

The poll found that more than three times as many members of the public feel that the government’s handling of the crisis engulfing the national steel industry has been poor as think it has been effective. 44 per cent of those polled in a new poll for Unite the union said that they believe the government has been ineffective in its handling, compared to the only 15 per cent who believe that ministers have been doing the right thing.

There is also a clear majority in favour of the government taking a stake in beleaguered steel plants, such as Port Talbot, in order to keep them open.  56 per cent of those polled back the government using public money to take a public interest in the industry, a view shared across the political spectrum with 54 per cent of Conservative voters and 62 per cent of Labour voters sharing that view, pointing to a sense that the public do not want a repeat of the 2015 closure of the Redcar plant.

This political unanimity holds when it comes to support for ensuring publicly funded projects go to UK steel manufacturers. 74 per cent of those polled say that taxpayers’ money should go to UK businesses even if imported steel, such as that from China, is cheaper, a view shared by 75 per cent of Conservative voters, 76 per cent of Labour and 82 per cent of UKIP voters.

The poll is issued as delegates at the Trades Union Congress vowed to back steel workers in their continuing fighting to save their industry one year on from Tata Steel’s announcement that it wanted to sell its UK businesses.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey commented: “It is not just Unite steel members who are clear where the blame for many of the problems they face lies, the public are too with many of them placing it firmly at the feet of the Conservative government.

“The failure to support this foundation industry was shamefully evident when the prime minister failed to seize the opportunity she had last week to tackle Chinese steel dumping, and time and again when this government has failed to provide the backing for British business that our competitors in Europe can expect from their government.

“But the British people, right across the political spectrum, are telling the government that they are not impressed by their conduct and that they want positive action to save our steel.

“With a clear majority for government action to take a stake in our steel sector, what could be a better use of public money than to invest to protect our foundation industries like steel? 

“Brexit is looming.  A responsible thing then for Theresa May to do is to ensure that our economy is not at the mercy of the market by protecting the domestic production of core materials.  Prime Minister, do the right thing by UK manufacturing and the  working people of this country and take a stake in our steel sector.”


Methodology Note: ComRes interviewed 2,004 GB adults online between 9th and 11th September 2016. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

For further information please call Alex Flynn on 07967 665 869 or Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861.

 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.