Unite has welcomed the news today (August 16) that the Turkish military pension fund Oyak has entered into exclusive talks with the government to buy British Steel.
Oyak announced on Friday that its subsidiary Ataer Holding has been granted the exclusive right to carry out due diligence of the steel firm for the next two months, with a full transfer expected before the end of the year.
The move will save about 5,000 jobs, most of which are based at British Steel’s steelworks in Scunthorpe.
News that Ataer Holdings is the preferred bidder comes after the ailing British Steel 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.
“The overwhelming feeling of the 5,000 workers at British Steel is one of relief,” said Unite national officer Harish Patel.
“Since May the workers have had their lives put on hold with the future of the company and their jobs being placed in an extremely precarious position.”
Patel noted that while today’s announcement is “not the end of the process”, it is still “a massive step forward”.
In a statement from Oyak today (August 15), the pension fund’s potential purchase was described as “one of the biggest achievements of the Turkish steel industry”.
Oyak lauded British Steel which it said “offers to create high value with its strategic products and industry know-how”.
It added that during the exclusivity period over the next two months, “close negotiations” with stakeholders including trade unions is “significant for the future success of British Steel”.
The government recently committed a £300m package to support the sale of British Steel, which will include a mix of grants, indemnities and loans. It has been reported that Oyak paid £70m for British Steel; the pension fund has committed to investing £900m with the hope of doubling production at the steelworks in Scunthorpe.
Patel told the BBC this afternoon that workers “have been positive” about the latest news.
Unite British Steel convenor in Scunthorpe Martin Foster agreed.
“This is exceptionally good news today for the workforce,” he told UniteLive. “We’ve been waiting since May 22, not knowing what the future will hold – whether or not the plant would close.
“Today is a huge leap forward and it’s given us the confidence to be hopeful for a future for British Steel.”
While Unite’s Harish Patel welcomed the news, he said the government must take action to ensure British Steel is a success no matter the buyer.
“In order to secure the long-term future of British Steel and the UK steel industry there remains a requirement for the government to keep its eye on the ball and provide assistance to tackle problems of high use energy costs and business rates,” he said.
“The government must also introduce a proper industrial strategy which tackles procurement issues to ensure that public contracts use UK steel.
“It is also essential that the government acts to prevent a disastrous no deal Brexit which would lead to cheap steel being dumped in the UK market.”