'˜Remain' is best for steel industry, crisis debate in Sheffield hears
A panel of experts at a steel crisis summit in Sheffield agreed the Government was finally doing the right thing by supporting the sale of Tata Steel - and remaining in the EU was best for the industry.
The Institute for Mechanical Engineers Yorkshire Region organised the debate at the Cutlers’ Hall chaired by Master Cutler Craig McKay.
It was called after Tata put its loss making UK steel plants up for sale. The firm employs more than 2,000 within the speciality steels business in South Yorkshire.
More than 50 people attended the event.
Stephen Shaw, group engineering director at AESSEAL plc, said: “The panel made it clear that the UK and Tata, was not alone in its suffering, and that other major steel global producers had also recently posted huge losses. Whilst Chinese imports seems to be a major contributing factor to Tata’s UK losses, along with energy costs, there are clearly a number of factors which have led to the current situation arising.
“Not all parts of the industry are equally hit by the crisis and the panel were much more optimistic about the future for high value special steels producers. For further development of this area the role of research and development will be crucial and there was concern about Tata Steel’s decision to reduce the R&D capability in the UK.
“The panel seemed to be in agreement that the UK Government was now finally doing the right thing in putting intervention policies in place to support a sale by Tata, even if some of its policies around energy and business rates weren’t necessarily supporting further major investment by a prospective buyer.
“It was felt that the UK industry should look to become more vertically integrated, to add more galvanising capabilities, machining capabilities etc, thereby adding more value to its products if it is to have a sustainable long term future. Lobbying is continuing from the EEF around the subject of mapping the future skills requirements of the industry, and this will continue.
“Finally, on the subject of the forthcoming EU referendum, there was a consensus from the panel that it was in the best interests of the UK steel industry for the UK to remain within the European Union.
“We shall see what happens on 23rd June.”
Tata shed 550 jobs at its South Yorkshire-based speciality steels business last year.
Forgemasters made more than 50 redundant in spring and stainless steel firm Outokumpu is consulting on 50 redundancies.