The UK steel industry presented a united front to government ministers at the steel summit in Rotherham today (October 16).
And as the coke ovens were shutting down in Redcar on Teesside the message was clear – give us help and give it now.
Steel, which directly employs 30,000 people in the UK is a major export earner for the country. Its products are worth more than £45bn and include rails, construction products and even the steel that made the Angel of the North sculpture.
But it is in crisis.
No time to waste
“Trade unions, steel employers and other stakeholders were united in spelling out the crisis UK steel is facing” Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke told UNITElive (pictured above centre with Unite national officer Harish Patel, left).
“We need help, we need a strategy and there is not time to waste.
“Time is of the essence for steel production in the UK. We need practical responses very quickly from government.
“It was made very clear to ministers that UK steel can be supported by government under EU rules. It has been done recently in Italy and Belgium and if they can get government assistance under EU rules then so can we.
“The key issues which need to be addressed are that energy prices for heavy industrial users, such as steelmakers, in the UK are higher than the rest of Europe.
“We need rapid dialogue across Europe about what is to be done about the Chinese government dumping very cheap steel in Europe and trying to wipe out their competitors.
“The employers and industry praised the quality and skills of the UK workforce and the work of the steel unions. There is a united front that what we need amounts to a strategic plan for steel and for manufacturing in the UK.
“The entire steel industry, employers, and unions are clear that we need action and need it soon. There has to be a strategic long-term vision that ensures the long-term future of steel production in the UK.”
The summit, in Rotherham, was attended by Sajid Javid MP, business secretary and Anna Soubry MP, business minister who leads the government response. It was also attended by numerous Labour MPs representing constituencies with steelmaking.
Tony Burke said, “Unite will continue to lobby hard in Parliament and do what we can to ensure there is positive government action on this. Ministers are in no doubt that our industry is united in what we want to see.”
Pictured are Unite’s Harish Patel and Tony Burke being interviewed by ITN’s Joel Hills. By Mark Harvey