Unite has vowed to defend its members after Liberty Steel announced on Thursday (January 9) that it would be cutting roughly 350 jobs due to what the company called “challenging” market conditions.
The steel firm said that about 282 jobs would be lost at its plants in South Yorkshire, with another 72 to go in Newport, South Wales.
Liberty Steel, which acquired the steel plants it now owns in 2017 after purchasing Tata’s speciality steels division, said it employs about 2,000 people in South Yorkshire and South Wales.
Liberty Steel CEO Cornelius Louwrens said the UK steel industry “is facing challenging conditions and we have made the difficult decision that there is a need to reduce the workforce at a handful of locations, in order to make them sustainable for the long-term”.
The firm pledged it would work to avoid compulsory redundancies – a pledge that Unite said it would ensure the company followed through with.
Unite also called on the government to step in and take action to support the UK’s steel industry.
Commenting on the latest job losses, Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel said, “This is a bitter blow for the workers concerned and Unite will be ensuring that every opportunity to minimise job losses is properly explored and the commitment to only consider voluntary redundancies is fully honoured.
“The announcement of redundancies inevitably creates further uncertainty in the steel industry and makes it more imperative that the government provides genuine and tangible commitments to the UK steel industry, to ensure that it can compete on a level playing field on the global stage,” he added.
“The need for an effective public sector procurement policy that ensures that UK steel is used on all strategic and infrastructure projects, has never been greater.”
The news of Liberty Steel job losses comes just days after Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons group which owns the Port Talbot steelworks, said that his firm would not go on “funding losses” at the South Wales site.
In a joint statement, steels unions including Unite, GMB and Community, voiced anger over Chandrasekaran’s comments.
“The last few months the company has sought to engage us in sensitive discussions on the future of Tata Steel Europe,” the statement read.
“It is extremely disappointing that Tata has sought to influence those discussions by making threats in the media and adding to the concerns of the workforce.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner vowed that Unite would stand by steelworkers.
“We will never allow @TataSteelUK to simply walk away from Wales or the UK,” he tweeted. “In the absence of a government that cares we will do #WhateverItTakes to fight as we always have to defend jobs skills families and communities.”