Britain’s biggest steel maker Tata confirms that hundreds of people are to lose their jobs at plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire.
The loss of 1,170 jobs, 900 of them in Scunthorpe, is another major blow to the British steel industry, which is already reeling from SSI going into liquidation and Caparo calling in administrators.
The industry says its problems are caused by the “dumping” of cheaper Chinese steel on world markets, which is affecting the viability of producers in Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will raise the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is on a four-day visit to Britain.
But Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steelworkers’ union Community, said: “The prime minister needs to do more than ‘raise’ the issue. He needs to tell the Chinese premier what action he’s going to take to stop Chinese steel damaging the future of a vital foundation industry in the UK.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to set up a task force to seek a viable future for the steel industry in Motherwell and Cambuslang.
The Compass union fears that steel production in Scotland could come to an end and is calling on Tata to mothball its plants, rather than close them.
Scunthorpe is a town synonymous with steel making, which has dominated the economy and landscape of north Lincolnshire for 150 years.
The 4,000-strong workforce there is by far the biggest in the private sector in the area and supports thousands more jobs in the region. Some 1,700 jobs are under threat at Caparo, which is owned by Labour peer Lord Paul and has plants across the UK, but mainly in the West Midlands.
Speaking about Caparo, Matt Hammond, lead administrator at PwC, said: “This is a significant business with a wide range of interests across steel, engineering, vehicles products and technologies. We will be rapidly assessing all options for the businesses through this week and beyond.”
Tony Burke, assistant general secretary at Unite, said: “Our members at Caparo Industries are highly skilled and work hard to produce world class products. We believe that the company has a future.”
Caparo employees are attending work as usual and are being paid. Thai firm SSI was the first steel employer in Britain to announce job cuts. Last month, it said it was mothballing its plant in Redcar, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.