Steel workers and their unions from across Europe, including Unite, are holding a day of action today (1 October) to demand urgent action to safeguard the sector and its workers.
The European steel sector was already suffering, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further deepened the crisis facing European steel workers.
Steel production in the UK and cross the continent has reduced by 40 per cent and new orders have been cut by up to 75 per cent.
This has greatly impacted workers and it is estimated that at least 45 per cent of European steelworkers are at risk of temporary layoffs and reduced working.
However, the impact of Covid-19 has not affected all countries in the same way. While Europe has been suffering, China managed to increase their production by 1.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020.
Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel laid out the support needed by government for the UK steel industry to gain a solid footing for the future.
He said, “A level playing field is required from government to give an opportunity to bid for public infrastructure procurement of steel. Action is needed on business rates, energy costs, carbon credits and support on research and development.
“Action is also required from government now to secure a mutual trade deal with Europe on steel trade. We need immediate action if the government is serious about securing the steel sector in the UK.”
Deputy General Secretary for industriAll Europe, Judith Kirton-Darling, said the pandemic has been a ‘disaster’ for the European sector.
She said, “There are genuine fears that around 50 per cent of steel-making capacity could be lost by the end of this pandemic. This must be avoided, and urgent action is needed to protect European steel workers.
‘’European steel is a foundation industry, and it should part of the foundation of Europe’s recovery. We call on European steel workers to mobilise and declare ‘Europe needs steel and steel needs Europe’’.
The day of action highlights the demands of industriAll Europe’s European Steel Action Plan and steel workers will call on political and industrial leaders to safeguard our jobs, to act against unfair trade and to give the continent a pathway towards green European made steel.
By Ryan Fletcher