GMB, Unite and Community have issued a statement in response to winding up petitions issued against four companies owned by metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta.
Reports suggest Speciality Steel UK Limited, a division of Liberty Steel, which employs about 2,000 in Rotherham and Stocksbridge, Liberty Pipes, Liberty Performance Steels and Liberty Merchant Bar have petitions against them.
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The tax authority has made an application to a court to ‘wind up’ – close down - the companies over unpaid debts believed to be £25m.
The unions say Liberty Steel is a strategically important business, crucial to delivering net zero, and ‘under no circumstances can our plants be allowed to close’.
The statement says: “This action by HMRC threatens thousands of jobs and is a devastating blow to our members and their families.
“The trade unions call on GFG - Liberty’s parent company - and HMRC to get back round the table and hammer out a deal that provides space for the company to refinance.
“The best route to protect jobs and repay HMRC and other creditors would be to enable the business to continue to trade.
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“Our experts have advised us that with the right framework of support Liberty Steel can have a sustainable future.
“The Government has an important role to play in providing that framework and must take urgent action to address our unaffordable energy prices.
“GFG is the owner and we hold them accountable for their actions, but as we have always said ministers must be ready to step in should that be required.”
The winding up petitions are expected to be heard late next month, according to Sky News. If a winding-up order is issued, bank accounts are usually frozen and assets or property will be sold by the official receiver.
The move comes after parent company GFG Alliance was left in turmoil following the collapse of lender Greensill Capital last year.
A Liberty spokesman said the debts were ‘deferred from Covid’ when pandemic shut downs severely hit trade. Today, the company was meeting its current liabilities and demand at both sites was good, although energy prices were hurting.