British Steel Will Need Years Of State Support, Warn Unions

6 April 2016

Britain’s beleaguered steel industry requires up to three years of state support to persuade a buyer to acquire Tata’s UK operations, union leaders warned last night.

They also urged the Government not to allow investors to “cherry-pick” Tata’s assets as that would jeopardise the future of steelmaking in this country.

Ministers have faced charges of mishandling efforts to save the industry following Tata’s decision to put up for sale all its British operations, including its giant Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales.

David Cameron will today become personally involved in the search for a buyer when he meets Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, for talks in Downing Street. The session will also be attended by Chancellor George Osborne and the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, who is flying to Mumbai later today to meet the Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry.

Addressing an emergency session of the Welsh Assembly, Mr Jones said the Government should nationalise Tata’s steel plants if attempts to negotiate a takeover fail.

Ministers are resisting the move and instead are attempting to sweeten any deal with the offer of shouldering some of Tata’s £2bn pension liabilities and cutting energy costs for its plants. However, they need to find a way of offering financial support without breaching European Union rules on state aid.

Following a meeting in London, shop stewards from the steel plants agreed demands which will be presented to ministers today.

They argued that Tata’s plants need two to three years of state support to enable them to return to “self-sustainability”, with immediate government intervention required to maintain production so that customers are not lost.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said: “There needs to be a step-change in the level of government involvement with Tata, its customers and the unions.”

Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “Ministers need to show British steelworkers that they are on their side. Other EU governments have acted to support their steel industries, ours must do the same.”


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