Stocksbridge steelworkers 'relatively relaxed' despite uncertainty over jobs

A Liberty steelworker in Sheffield has spoken of the resilience of colleagues in the face of months of uncertainty at the up for sale business.

Friday, 6th August 2021, 9:05 pm

The shop floor employee at the Stocksbridge works said some were numb and others had a mix of hope and expectation it would survive.

He added: “There are people in this industry who have been here much longer than me who are relatively relaxed. If we are melting, casting and producing then there’s less need to worry.

“I have heard from across the business that some people are jumping ship. But the general mood is that we have been through this before and we will get through it again. There is a resilience that speaks to the character of the people.”

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Liberty Speciality Steels, Stocksbridge. Picture: Chris Etchells

The 750-strong aerospace and special alloys plant was put up for sale in May to pay debts following the collapse of lender Greensill.

It has been hit by a 60 per cent drop in aeroplane orders due to the pandemic, as well as a decline in oil and gas. Since March, it has been operating intermittently with workers on a ‘rolling furlough’, coming for up to three weeks at a time.

The worker, a member of the technical staff, also questioned whether separating Stocksbridge from its sister plant in Rotherham was possible. Liberty wants to focus on Rotherham because it produces steel used in construction and infrastructure projects.

He added: “It would be the first time they have been separated in decades. Stocksbridge buys all its steel from Rotherham and Rotherham relies on Stocksbridge to keep its melt shop going. Any agreement that was unfavourable after a split could see them both go under."

Stocksbridge steelworks annealing furnace for heat treating steel.

Last month, Sheffield engineering firm Forgemasters was nationalised by the Government, raising hopes in Stocksbridge that it could step in again.

A Government spokeswoman said a takeover was a last resort where there was a compelling case in the best interests of the UK and taxpayers.

He added: “We continue to monitor developments around Liberty Steel and hope the company succeeds with its plans to refinance. If approached for support, the Government looks at the case of each company based on its merits to ensure that any decisions taken are in the best interests of the British taxpayer.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.