What’s next for South Yorkshire steel?

Tata Steel, Brinsworth Strip Mills, Rotherham
Tata Steel, Brinsworth Strip Mills, Rotherham
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FEARS have been voiced for the future of steel-making in South Yorkshire after a firm announced plans to axe jobs.

Manufacturer Tata Steel has four sites in South Yorkshire - three in Rotherham and one in Stocksbridge.

There are 110 proposed job losses are its biggest Rotherham site, off Doncaster Road and 16 jobs at its Stocksbridge works.

But the company says there are no job loss proposals at Brinsworth Strip Mill and there is an overall increase of 11 jobs at its distribution hub in Rotherham, so a total of 115 proposed Tata Steel job losses in South Yorkshire.

The company has pledged to invest £2.75 million in the business as part of the changes.

Mark Broxholme, managing director of Tata’s steels and bar business, said: “These proposed changes are a critical part of developing a sustainable and competitive bar business.

“Tata Steel is showing its commitment to making this strategy work by committing £2.75m of investment for the bar business.

“We are investing in improvements to our steelmaking in Rotherham as well as to the final quality of our products.”

The 90-day consultation period over the planned redundancies is due to be launched on Monday - but steel workers’ union Community has not ruled out industrial action.

Roy Rickhuss, national officer for Community, who met workers yesterday, said: “Our reps are angry and disappointed. In Rotherham and Stocksbridge they feel they have done everything they can to co-operate with and show commitment to the company.

“This is a very loyal, hard-working workforce and it is a bitter blow after everything we have done.

“We will be seeking further meetings with the company to clarify proposals and challenge them if necessary. If it means we have to have a dispute, so be it.”

Tata employs 1,000 people in Stocksbridge and is the only large works left in the town, once a centre of the city’s metal manufacturing.

Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “The announcement by Tata is undoubtedly a blow for Sheffield.

“It is vital for our region to be able to produce high quality steel in the future and every effort must be made to keep local skills that will be needed when the upturn in the global economy comes.

“The Stocksbridge workers have a real family spirit so I know the news will be felt throughout the local community.”

Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith said she hoped Tata had suffered a ‘temporary setback’ and this round of job cuts was not indicative of threats to its long-term future in South Yorkshire.

She said: “It is terrible news for all those workers concerned. First and foremost this is a tragedy for those people and their families, and my thoughts go out to them. These redundancies are yet more evidence of local workers in South Yorkshire losing their livelihoods thanks to the Government’s mismanagement of the economy, which is sucking out demand.”

Rotherham MP John Healey said: “I am disappointed these changes mean redundancies in Rotherham. It will be a very difficult Christmas for those at risk of losing their jobs.

“Steel-making has been hit as the economy has gone back into double dip recession. We need an economic policy from the Government that restores growth to the economy and helps the steel industry pick up again.”

Rotherham Council leader Coun Roger Stone said: “Unfortunately, the world we live in today sees international markets go up and down far more frequently with serious and devastating affects to companies and their workers.

“I am hoping Tata are able to keep the number of compulsory redundancies to a minimum.”

Union bosses have vowed to fight job losses, describing the company’s restructuring plans as ‘a bitter blow’.

There are currently 1,050 people working at Rotherham’s site on Sheffield Road.

Earlier this year, Tata Steel advertised for 17 apprentices to attend the firm’s training centre in Stocksbridge. Bosses have insisted these positions will not be affected and job losses in Sheffield will be limited to those in the primary rolling mill.

Tata said it will try to make as many job losses through voluntary redundancy as possible.

Tata MD Mr Broxholme added: “Our priority will be to help our employees through this difficult process and keep them up to date with the changes. We will do everything we can to provide them with support and assistance.”