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Official: govt failed steel workers

Ministers failed to react to warning signs
Shaun Noble, Monday, December 21st, 2015

Unite has backed the findings of the select committee’s report on the failure of the government to react to warning signs that the steel industry was facing increasing problems.


Unite has commented on today’s (Monday 21 December) report by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee.


The report follows nearly 5,000 job losses in the steel industry in recent months leaving iot on ‘the verge of terminal decline’.


“Unite echoes many of the findings of the BIS select committee,” said Harish Patel, Unite national officer for steel.


“Inaction by the government at an industry wide level and failure to intervene at SSI in Redcar has seen a needless loss of skills to the steel industry and left hundreds of families facing an uncertain future,” he added.


The BIS committee found that although the government identified the steel industry as of vital importance, Whitehall did not have effective warning systems in place to detect and address growing problems in the industry.


Strategic asset

“Our steel industry is a strategic asset to our economy and needs to be at the heart of an active industrial strategy,” said Harish.


The committee also found that a lack of action at EU level and a failure by UK governments to push for EU action helped leave the UK heavily exposed to the dumping of cheap Chinese steel, a global oversupply of steel and a ‘perfect storm’ of difficulties for the industry.


“Government ministers have no time to waste and need to turn words into action to secure the future of the steel industry and avoid being seen as doing too little, too late,” added Harish.


The committee finds that the prospects of future growth in the steel sector have been severely damaged by the irrevocable loss of capacity and skills. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and more will go as a result of the impact on businesses in associated supply chains.


“We must never again see a situation where a viable asset like Redcar is lost to the nation because of the government’s ideological opposition to strategic intervention,” added Harish.


The committee regrets that, given the importance with which ministers themselves have held the steel industry, ministers were not able to give more attention to investigating the potential for maintaining existing facilities and preserving the skills base.


Job losses

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, chair of the BIS committee said: “In recent months, a series of site closures and job losses at sites including in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire, have dealt a major blow to the UK steel industry.


“The steel industry is now on the verge of terminal decline. For too long the government failed to be alert to the alarms raised by the industry and act at home to maintain a steel industry in the UK when other European countries were acting to safeguard their own strategic steel industries.


“Industry isn’t looking for a hand-out, it’s looking for a level-playing field: for too long there was little action from the government, with some asks from the industry taking years, if at all, to deliver.”



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