Unite has cautiously welcomed news that the Chinese company Jingye is set to purchase British Steel.
Jingye has said it will invest about £1.2bn over the next decade and pledged to “preserve thousands of jobs in a key foundation industry for the UK”.
British Steel has been receiving government support via the Official Receiver to continue operating since May, when the firm fell into compulsory liquidation, following the government refusing to grant its previous owner Greybull Capital a £30m emergency loan to keep the company afloat.
The company employs 5,000 workers directly, most of them in the Scunthorpe steelworks, with a further 20,000 workers in the supply chain.
The Official Receiver said today in a statement that completion of the contract was “conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals”.
“The parties are working together to conclude a sale as soon as reasonably practicable,” the statement read. “The business will continue to trade as normal during the period between exchange and completion. Support from employees, suppliers and customers since the liquidation has been a critical factor in achieving this outcome.”
The latest news comes after British Steel was in talks over a sale with Ataer Holding, a subsidiary of the Turkish military pension scheme, but the sale fell through after what the Official Receiver said was “lack of support from the key stakeholders of the company and that the expected commercial efficiency could not be achieved”.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “Unite welcomes news that it appears we are close to a deal being concluded that ends the anxiety felt by thousands of workers, their families and communities and finally brings desperately needed stability to a world class business.
He called it a “real milestone in the campaign to ensure the long term future of British Steel.
“Local trade union representatives have met with officials from Jingye and received positive assurances that the company is committed to the long-term future of British Steel and is prepared to commit significant investment,” he added.
“A further meeting has been arranged in the near future when Jingye’s detailed plans will be discussed.”
“Similarly we continue to seek meetings with government to secure a firm commitment that it will now finally ensure that previous empty promises to act to defend the steel industry in respect of tariffs, energy prices and business rates in particular, are finally delivered and aren’t simply a further example of opportunist electioneering.”