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Unite warns ministers against leaving Scunthorpe steel...

Unite warns ministers against leaving Scunthorpe steelworkers ‘high and dry’

11 April 2016

Britain’s largest union, Unite warned government ministers that a failure to allow UK steelworkers to compete on an even playing field would leave Scunthorpe steelworkers who were making huge sacrifices to secure the industry ‘high and dry’.

The warning follows today’s (Monday 11 April) announcement of a sale and purchasing agreement between Tata Steel and Greybull Capital over Tata’s Scunthorpe steelworks and the remainder of its long products division.

Welcoming the announcement, Unite said the imminent deal was a testament to the workforce and demonstrated that steel production in the UK can have a future if the government ‘stepped up to the plate’ and was prepared to throw a ‘protective arm’ around the industry. 

As part of the deal to secure 4,400 jobs, workers are being asked to accept a one year pay cut of 3 per cent and changes to their pension scheme. Unite is recommending members vote to accept the changes in a ballot due to close on 19 April ahead of the formal sale of the Scunthorpe steelworks.

Commenting Unite convenor for Tata Steel Scunthorpe Martin Foster said: “This announcement is good news and brings us within touching distance of securing a future for steelmaking in Scunthorpe.

“It should not be forgotten though that many workers have already lost their jobs at Scunthorpe and those that remain are making huge sacrifices with their pay and pensions to secure their jobs. 

“Unite is asking our members to back the deal, but government ministers must now play their part too. The government cannot now leave Scunthorpe’s steelworkers high and dry and must take decisive action to allow them to compete on an even playing field with their global competitors.

“This means supporting steelworkers by ensuring infrastructure such as HS2 and defence projects are built with British steel, as well as tackling the dumping of cheap imports and high energy costs, which is leaving steelworkers fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.”

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke added: “The sale and purchasing agreement between Tata and Greybull Capital is testament to the commitment of a world class workforce.  

“It demonstrates that steel production can have a future here in the UK and that given a fighting chance it can be profitable. The workforce is making great sacrifices and we expect Greybull to stand by assurances that it is in it for the long term. 

“While the future of the Scunthorpe workforce looks more secure, we should not overlook the uncertainty and turmoil the rest of Tata Steel UK’s workers find themselves in. 

“With the sale process for the rest of Tata’s steel operations starting today, steelworkers across the remaining sites expect Tata to live up to its assurances that the business will be sold as a whole to a responsible buyer.” 

Unite has nearly half a million members working in manufacturing industries across the UK. Unite is calling on the UK government to intervene to stabilise and secure the UK steel industry through a series of measures. 

These include ministers throwing UK steel a financial lifeline and backing investment to get it through these tough times and creating an even playing field by dropping opposition to European Commission proposals to slap higher tariffs on cheap Chinese steel. 

Unite also wants ministers to taking swift action on sky high energy costs so that UK steelworkers can compete on a level playing field with their European counterparts, as well as compelling British steel to be used in British infrastructure such as HS2 and defence projects.

ENDS  

For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

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.