UK steelmakers have ‘bad week at the office’

The under-pressure UK steelmaking sector, never far away from a challenge, had a particularly testing few days last week. Three of the country’s four major steelmakers were all hit by adverse news related to either confirmed or implied reductions in jobs, Kallanish notes.

The week began with the publication of an interview with Tata Sons chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran by the Sunday Times.  With reference to The UK’S largest steelmaking site at Port Talbot, the chairman was quoted as saying, “I need to get to a situation where at least the plant is self-sustaining. Whether it is in the Netherlands or here, we can’t have a situation where India keeps funding the losses just to keep it going.”

This was followed on Thursday by the news from Liberty Steel that 355 jobs are to be cut at its special steel mill at Stocksbridge in Yorkshire and at its re-rolling plant in Newport. The company cited “… challenging market conditions,” as the reason for the move.

Finally, on Friday, a steel trade unions’ negotiating committee revealed that China’s Jingye Steel was implying that jobs would need to be cut at British Steel should it successfully acquire the long products specialist (see related article).

Both the trade unions and steel sector umbrella association UK Steel continue to point the finger of blame at a lack of action on the part of the UK government to support the industry. The old chestnuts of high electricity costs, high business rates and the newer tariff-free access to overseas markets caused by the UK’s decision to Brexit are all highlighted by both parties.

The new Johnson-led UK government has its own broader issues to deal with. It is unlikely however, in the light of the history of inaction by the previous three conservative governments, that any short-term relief for the indigenous steelmaking sector will be forthcoming anytime soon.