Workers, unions and MPs vow to ‘come out fighting’ for Sheffield steel

Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
Tata Steel Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
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“We are fighters and we will come out fighting.”

Tata workers in South Yorkshire are showing their steel as they face an uncertain future at the up-for-sale business.

Staff are refusing to be cowed by the crisis engulfing the sector and insist its speciality steels division, which employs 2,172 at sites in Rotherham and Stocksbridge, has a future.

Sue Mather, Community union representative at Tata in Rotherham, said: “This plant has been through so many restructures – but we are fighters and we will come out fighting.

Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Liberty Group, was yesterday in talks with the Government about taking over Tata.

He said he was aiming to avoid any redundancies if a deal was agreed.

“Whatever they decide to do, this place should carry on. Its future has been mapped out for it; management presented a plan for the year ahead, which has been approved by the board in India within the last two weeks.

“We are all working hard to show there is a future here. I’m convinced that Anna Soubry taking the time to come and see the uniqueness of speciality steels is a very positive step.”

Business minister Ms Soubry visited Rotherham after Tata’s Indian owners announced plans to sell its loss-making UK operations.

The business, which employs 15,000 in the UK, is losing more than £1m a day. But the speciality steels division – which produces carbon, alloy and stainless steels for aerospace, motorsport, oil and gas projects – is understood to be profitable.

Ms Mather added: “We just need the chance to prove that speciality steels can be profitable. Anna Soubry was told it is in a better place than Port Talbot and Scunthorpe. We tend to be forgotten because of their size.

“There’s nothing concrete at the moment but this has been a standalone business in the past.”

A Tata spokesman said: “The minister had a very constructive meeting with Tata speciality steels’ management. We continue to engage with government.”

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said she was relieved a government minister ‘gets it’ after Ms Soubry’s visit. She said: “I think before the visit the image of steel was of 30, if not 50, years ago. I don’t think she understood the level of investment or what a dynamic business it is.”

Rotherham MP John Healey, who issued the invite, added: “The proof will be a commitment by Tata to keep operations going until a sale can be secured.

“In some senses it’s a case apart within Tata Group. It’s run separately and has its own board. Tata’s speciality steels business is the definition of efficient, strategic steel making.”