500 Sheffield steel workers face uncertain future as Outokumpu launches strategic review

Employees at a major steel plant have been told all ‘options will be considered’ as the company launches a review of its Sheffield operations.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 2:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 5:39 pm

Finnish steel company Outokumpu, which employs about 500 in Sheffield, will consider options for its Long Products business – which makes steel rods and bars – this year. The division also has sites in Sweden and the US.

In a letter to Sheffield employees seen by The Star, Kari Tuutti, president of Long Products, said the company will be looking into ‘multiple options’ to ‘determine optimal long-term business mix’ and admitted 'this review will create some uncertainty.’

It states: ‘Earlier today, Outokumpu made an announcement regarding a strategic review of business area Long Products.

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Outokumpu, Shepcote Lane

‘The review is part of a process to determine the optimal long-term business mix for Outokumpu. During the review, multiple options will be investigated including opportunities for consolidation within the stainless steel long products markets.

“The strategic review of BA Long Products is expected to be concluded in 2020. During the review all our operations will continue as before, and all of our 2020 targets and priorities remain unchanged.

‘It is crucially important that this review doesn’t affect the safety and well being of our employees and the important service to our customers.

‘While this review will create some uncertainty, the best thing for us all is to continue to focus on our daily responsibilities and tasks, to ensure best possible performance of our units and the business area for 2020 and beyond.

‘We will provide more information about this process as it becomes available….Finally, let’s all pay extra attention to safety by keeping our mind on task, despite this announcement’.

The Sheffield-based Long Products operations have the capacity to produce more than 200,000 tonnes of steel annually.

The unit makes wire-rods, wire and bars for the oil, engineering and chemical industries. It includes meltshop SMACC (Stainless Melting and Continuous Casting), a wire rod mill and a bar finishing facility. It also runs a sales and distribution company in Sheffield.

Outokumpu, which is based on Europa Link in Tinsley, has been contacted for further comment.

In 2016 the Sheffield steel company axed 50 jobs and closed its pension scheme after failing to make a profit for eight years. All 550 staff were warned the outlook for 2016 “remains challenging” and “significant action” was needed to minimise the risk of UK operations being shut down.

The Sheffield site was previously owned by British Steel Stainless, Avesta Sheffield and Polarit.

Today’s announcement follows Liberty Steel last month launching a consultation on 350 jobs nationally, some 283 in Stocksbridge and Rotherham, due to falling demand.