Action plan on Tata steel closures is welcomed by unions

19 October 2015

STEEL workers have called on the Scottish Government to help secure the future of the industry by supporting a “short-time working programme” if proposed plant closures go ahead.

Indian group Tata Steel is expected to make an announcement tomorrow on the future of its plants at Dalzell in Motherwell, Clydebridge in Cambuslang and Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire. It is understood that about 1,200 jobs are likely to be affected, including up to 400 in Scotland, which would effectively end steelmaking here.

Tata has yet to publicly confirm its plans, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already pledged to set up a taskforce to seek a viable future for the plants and the industry.

Community – the trade union that represents steel workers – wants the taskforce to support a “short-time working programme” to keep the plants open while a long-term solution is sought.

John Park, the union’s assistant general secretary, said: “Scottish steel is facing its biggest test in a generation. These developments are hugely worrying – not only for Scottish industry – but for the communities around Motherwell and Cambuslang.

“Workers in the Scottish steel industry have done everything asked of them to ensure they can compete in a global marketplace.

“We are in the middle of the worst slump in steel prices in living memory and it is essential we maintain our capacity to produce steel in Scotland. We welcome Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of a steel taskforce, but it cannot simply be an exercise in managing decline.

“If the Scottish steel industry is to have a future, then Nicola Sturgeon must ensure the strategic assets at Dalzell and Clydebridge are maintained.”

Park also called for a proper industrial strategy for the sector to be developed. “We believe these Scottish sites can be successful and we are ready to work with the Scottish Government and potential investors to secure the future of steel in Scotland,” he added. “For steel to have that future we must secure the skills of the men and women who work in the industry. That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to support a short-time working programme should that be necessary over the coming weeks.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “The First Minister made it clear that if that news is confirmed ... then we will leave no stone unturned.

“We will work with the UK Government, we will work with the unions, with the staff, to look at what can be done. A taskforce will be established and we will look at what all of the options are.”

Labour MSP John Pentland added: “When Grangemouth, Ferguson’s and Prestwick Airport were at risk, the Scottish Government stepped in to provide support and to secure jobs.

“They need to do the same now – anything less will not be acceptable. We will work together with the UK and Scottish Governments, the companies and trade unions to find a solution”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Since last year, when Tata Steel first announced the potential sale of its long products division, the Scottish Government and its agencies have been in constant contact with both Tata Steel and with the trades unions. We continue to be in contact to explore all possible options to find a viable future for the company’s sites in Scotland.”

The crisis at Tata Steel followed the closure of the blast furnace and coke ovens at Sahaviriya Steel Industrie plant in Redcar, Teesside, where 2,200 jobs have been lost. Only four years ago, Tata invested £16 million in the Dalzell steel plate rolling mill and at Clydebridge.