Unite called on the business secretary Andrea Leadsom to guarantee the government’s continued support for British Steel and honour previous commitments on research and investment necessary to facilitate the smooth sale of the steelmaker.
The call comes as preferred bidder Ataer’s 10-week exclusive access to British Steel’s books draws to a close on Thursday (October 24).
Now, talks will be opened to other bidders but the Official Receiver has said talks are still continuing with Ataer, the Turkish pension fund which was granted the exclusive right to carry out due diligence on the steel firm in August.
The search for a buyer for British Steel comes after the ailing firm fell into compulsory liquidation in May, following the government refusing to grant its previous owner Greybull Capital a £30m emergency loan to keep the company afloat.
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner called on the government to take action to protect jobs.
“The future of 5,000 direct jobs across the UK and a further 20,000 in the supply chain depend on securing a long-term future for British Steel,” he said.
Having written to the business secretary Andrea Leadsom today (October 23), Turner added, “It is vital that the government continues to stand behind British Steel until the sale process is finalised to maintain customer, supplier and workforce confidence in a company which can have bright future.
“This includes honouring commitments on research and investment which assist the smooth sale process of British Steel and a recognition that the success of the steelmaker is central to any future UK industrial strategy.”
Turner went on to say that a failure to honour such commits would “puts at risk the possibility of British Steel’s sale and a strategically important business which provides 95 per cent of the UK’s rail tracks and supplies other UK steelmakers with product, alongside its strong export portfolio.
“In addition, ministers must tackle the underlying problems facing the steel industry,” he added. “This includes high business rates and energy costs which leave UK steelmakers paying twice as much for electricity as their competitors in France and 50 per cent more than in Germany.
“The government must also use its buying power to put UK steel at the heart of major UK infrastructure and defence projects as part of a joined up industrial strategy that supports UK manufacturing.”