Business minister to visit Rotherham while unions meet to discuss steel crisis

Union leaders are to meet today to discuss the crisis gripping the steel industry as efforts continue to save thousands of jobs.

Monday, 4th April 2016, 6:57 am
The site of Tata Steel in Stocksbridge. Picture: Andrew Roe

Shop stewards from steelworks across the country will hold emergency talks in London and have vowed to continue pressing the Government for help.

The meeting comes amid reports that Marc and Nathaniel Meyohas, the brothers behind the Greybull investment firm, are putting the finishing touches to a buy-out of Tata’s Scunthorpe steelworks.

Tata, which also has plants in Rotherham, Brinsworth and Stocksbridge announced plans to sell off it British interests last week.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Business minister Anna Soubry is due to visit Tata’s Rotherham plant today.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled ministers are working on plans to reduce energy costs and take on some of the pension liabilities in an effort to attract a buyer for Tata’s loss-making UK assets.

He faced calls from Labour for his resignation after he disclosed he had been aware Tata had been meeting last week in Mumbai to discuss the future of its UK operations but chose to go ahead with a trip to Australia.

The Business Secretary played down suggestions that Tata could close down its UK operations, with the loss of 15,000 jobs, in as little as six weeks if a buyer was not found in time.

However, he acknowledged that the Government would have to come forward with some financial assistance if there was to be a deal.

“Tata will issue an offer document very soon. Alongside that, the UK Government know - I’ve known for a while - that we’re also going to have to offer support to clinch that buyer and give that steel plant a long-term, viable future,” he told the BBC.

“I do feel, though, for lots of reasons after talking to Tata and many others involved in this, that there will be enough time to find the right buyer working with the Government and being able to take this forward.”

While he said he does not believe that nationalisation is a solution to the problems of the business, he insisted he is ruling nothing out.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said of today’s meeting: “After a tumultuous few days this will be the first time representatives from all the steel unions from across Tata Steel can come together to discuss the industrial crisis facing the industry.

“They will be doing so with a determination to fight for their industry, their communities and to save our steel. But if they are to be given a fighting chance then the Government and Tata need to come clean on their intentions and prior discussions, because so far all we’ve had is more questions than answers.

“The apparent lack of urgency from Sajid Javid and absence of a clear plan from the Government is disturbing for the tens of thousands whose livelihoods hang in balance and deeply troubling for British Steel’s 140,000 pensioners.

“The confusion and lack of government leadership of the past few days strengthens calls for a recall of Parliament and underlines the need for the Prime Minister to take control and meet steel unions as a matter of urgency.”

Roy Rickhuss, leader of the Community union, said: “This meeting will be a key moment in our campaign. By now, no-one underestimates the scale of the challenge we face. We have an entire industry to save and not a lot of time to save it. We must also ensure that we hold Tata to a commitment to be a responsible seller and honour its moral and social duties to UK steel communities.

“Community has called this meeting so that our reps can relay the concerns of members and join together and shape the next stage of our campaign to save our steel.”