Union bosses have hired industrial consultants in a bid to stave off 720 redundancies at Tata Steel.
The Community union is paying Syndex to investigate the ‘black bar’ business based in Rotherham which Tata chiefs say is unprofitable due to “crippling” electricity prices and a strong pound hitting the export market.
Stuart Sansome of Community, said the French firm had a “good track record” of protecting workers.
Tata had wanted to ‘divest’ its Scunthorpe-based long products division last year, raising fears it would be bought by an asset-stripper. But Syndex had helped persuade the firm to set it up as standalone subsidiary under the company’s umbrella.
Sansome said they were opposed to compulsory redundancies in Rotherham, where 490 jobs are under threat.
He added: “Our first priority has got to be the future of the business. The atmosphere at the plant is desperate.
“Syndex will look at the way the company has been run and will come back to us with an alternative plan. They have a good track record, but if you’ve been in the business as long as I have you don’t build your hopes up.”
The Thrybergh site has now started its summer shut down which lasts until August 10.
An industry source estimated up to 100 of the 720 total might take early retirement, a further 200 might go voluntarily and some would leave through natural wastage.
Some of those earmarked for redundancy might obtain another job within the company, the UK’s biggest steel maker, in a process called ‘cross matching’.
The GMB union believes jobs will be shed by the end of March.
A Tata spokesman refused to comment on numbers, in what is the firm’s third major ‘restructure’ since 2009.
But he said since 2009 they had announced 2,500 redundancies in South Yorkshire and the current headcount was only 1,000 down, due to cost savings being found as an alternative to redundancies and growth in other areas of the business.