Steel crisis: 'Wave of fear' sweeps industry as 1,200 jobs axed


Steel Workers 'Devastated' Over Job Losses

A "wave of fear" is sweeping the beleaguered steel industry after another 1,200 jobs were axed, sparking fresh calls for the Government to do more to tackle the crisis.

Tata Steel confirmed it will cut 900 jobs cut from its plant in Scunthorpe, and 270 in Scotland, effectively ending steelmaking north of the border.

The firm said the cuts were in response to a shift in market conditions caused by a "flood" of cheap imports, particularly from China, a strong pound and high electricity prices.

MPs debated the industry's demise as Chinese President Xi Jinping was driven down the Mall to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to raise the issue of cheap Chinese steel being dumped onto the European market during President Xi's visit.

Reaction to the new job losses ranged from sadness to anger, with warnings of further cuts as well as thousands facing lay-offs in the supply industry.

Paul Kenny, leader of the GMB union, said: "There is a wave of fear in the industry - people have little faith that the Government will actually do anything."

The latest bad news follows 2,200 job losses at the Redcar steelworks on Teesside, and fears of cuts at Caparo, which went into administration yesterday.

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations, said: "I realise how distressing this will be for all those affected. We have looked at all other options before proposing these changes.

"The UK steel industry is struggling for survival in the face of extremely challenging market conditions."

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steelworkers' union Community, said: "The Government should hang its head in shame at today's news. The cruel irony of the Prime Minister welcoming the Chinese President as UK steel jobs are cut partly due to Chinese steel dumping will not be lost on the UK's steelworkers and their communities."

Tata said that in the past two years, imports of steel plate into Europe have doubled and imports from China have quadrupled, causing steel prices to fall steeply.

At the same time, a stronger pound has undermined the competitiveness of the business's Europe-bound exports, and encouraged more imports.

Tata said plate mills in Scunthorpe, Dalzell and Clydebridge would be mothballed, while one of the two coke ovens at the Scunthorpe steelworks would be closed.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: "This is a dark day for the UK steel industry, for the workers and the communities whose livelihoods depend on steel.

"The knock on effects of today's news combined with Caparo and the closure of Redcar through the supply chain will be devastating."

Business Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that more infrastructure contracts could be offered to UK steel manufacturers in a bid to shore up the flagging industry.

"This Government is committed to a major programme of infrastructure spending. I am determined the UK steel industry should play a central role in its delivery."

Mr Javid was blasted by Speaker John Bercow as "discourteous and incompetent" after he overran the normal allotted time for replying to an urgent question.