Steelworkers join rally to highlight industry crisis


Steelworkers and their families will join a rally today to highlight the crisis in their industry and call on the Government for more help.

Thousands of job losses have been announced in recent weeks in areas including Teesside and Scunthorpe, with unions fearing more cuts will be unveiled soon.

Firms have blamed high energy costs and business rates as well as cheap Chinese imports and have set out a series of pleas to ministers to help the industry.

Speaking ahead of the rally, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The crisis in British steel isn't over. One in six steelworkers face losing their jobs. Britain desperately needs a long-term industrial plan, but ministers have refused to commit to one.

"The closure of factories will devastate surrounding communities, and causes jobs losses throughout the supply chain. The Chancellor's 'Northern Powerhouse' has to be more than a slogan for a party conference.

"The North needs real support for job-rich industries with strategic economic value.

"British steelworkers contribute over £2 billion to our balance of trade. Every steelworker generates over £90,000 of added value. These aren't jobs we can simply watch fade away.

"The US has taken strong steps to protect its steel industry, and so can we. I have written to the Prime Minister proposing international action to stop China dumping cheap steel on the global market.

"All we see from the Government is inaction at home, and inaction abroad. In the short run we need action on Chinese steel dumping. In the long run we need a serious industrial strategy."

Dave Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: "The steel industry in the UK is in real crisis, with massive job losses taking place with the closure of the SSI plant in Redcar, redundancies in Tata Steel in Scunthorpe and the potential closure of the plants in Scotland on top of job losses which will take place in Rotherham and redundancies and closures in Caparo Industries.

"This rally is another step in the steel unions' campaign to save jobs and force the Government to take action.

"If the unions had not mounted such a campaign, the Government would not have called the steel summit and would not have gone to Brussels to meet with the EU on the crisis. Their plan was to wring their hands and hope it would all go away."

A Business Department spokesperson said: "The UK Government will not stand aside whilst the steel industry faces such unprecedented challenges.

"We have already paid out over £50 million in compensation for energy costs to UK steelmakers and in July we voted for anti-dumping measures on Chinese wire rod products in recognition of the pressures facing the steel industry.

"We have identified over 500 infrastructure projects and programmes, valued at £411 billion, listed in the National Infrastructure Pipeline, to help industry plan for and win contracts.

"This builds on the newly renegotiated EU procurement rules which allow wider social and economic considerations to be taken into account, and which we were the first country to put these into action in February 2015."

Business Minister Anna Soubry said: "The Government is well aware of the challenges facing our steel industry and we are working tirelessly to help.

"On dumping we have taken clear action. In July, we voted for anti-dumping measures on Chinese wire rod imports and just last week voted for further anti-dumping measures on other steel products. It was the UK that helped persuade the European Commission to launch an investigation into steel rebar imports and the UK that secured an emergency EU council meeting this month.

"We will continue to do all we can to achieve a level playing field for our steel industry and workers."