Unite said it would be seeking urgent assurances from British Steel bosses on Tuesday (May 14) after reports suggested that the steelmaker was in talks with the government about a new loan.
It has been reported that British Steel is seeking fresh funding from the government after it secured a £100m state loan to pay its EU carbon emissions bill two weeks ago.
British Steel, whose main plant is in Scunthorpe but also has sites in Teesside, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, confirmed in a statement that it is seeking more financial support to weather what it said were Brexit-related challenges.
The firm said that “uncertainties around Brexit are posing challenges for all businesses including British Steel”.
“We are holding constructive discussions with our stakeholders on how to navigate them,” the company noted.
“Discussions are continuing about a package of additional support to assist the company address broader Brexit-related issues, whilst continuing with [the company’s] investment plans.”
Unite has called for clarity from the firm and support from the government.
“The workforce of British Steel worked tirelessly to secure the steelmaker’s future during the difficult times and given a fighting chance will do so again,” said Unite national officer Tony Brady.
“Unite will be seeking urgent assurances about our members’ futures at British Steel, a company which helps sustain thousands of job in the local economy and wider supply chain.”
Brady said that Unite was firmly of the view that British Steel can and should have a bright future, especially having just secured a big order for rail.
“To do so though the government must, as reports suggest, help the steelmaker through the tough times, while urgently addressing the wider underlying problems facing the UK steel industry,” he noted.
Unite believes government must do much more to tackle the underlying issues – otherwise loans risk being nothing more than ‘sticking plaster’, the union highlighted earlier this month.
“Brexit is hitting sales and creating uncertainty not just for British Steel, but for the wider industry,” Brady explained. “At the same time high energy costs are leaving steelmakers competing with their European competitors with one hand tied behind their backs.
“Ministers need to support the wider steel industry with help on business rates and high energy costs, while securing a Brexit deal that secures a customs union and continued tariff free frictionless trade.
“The government must also put UK steel at the heart of major infrastructure and ensure projects like the Royal Navy’s new Fleet Solid Ships are built in the UK using UK steel.”
Earlier this year, a government report found that less than half of the steel the UK government bought for projects in the last year was procured from the UK.