Union criticises UK budget lack of steel support

The Unite Union has expressed its disappointment over the recent UK budget announcement not containing more support for the steel industry, calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ensure the sector’s competitiveness.

This comes as reports circulated of Tata Steel UK potentially closing a blast furnace at Port Talbot in July. Last July, Tata Group chair Natarajan Chandrasekaran warned that some UK sites might be closed in 12 months without government support towards decarbonisation.

In January, the government was reported in talks with both Tata Steel and British Steel over £300 million ($367m) in funding each for this purpose, but a deal is yet to be agreed, and some sources say the figure falls short of the steelmakers’ expectations.

“The government has legislated to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. This means that to maintain UK steel production in future there needs to be proper support to transition from coke furnaces to new technologies using electricity or hydrogen,” Unite says in a note seen by Kallanish.

“This will require billions of pounds of investment. While it is welcome that the government is now reportedly preparing £600 million of sector support, this is small beer compared to countries like Germany and the US that have already provided billions of pounds worth of public investment. We now need adequate funding in the UK and we need it tied to job protection guarantees. Intervention is essential but cannot be about rescue packages that only end up helping investors, while jobs disappear,” it adds.

The government must also ensure UK infrastructure projects use UK-made steel, while high energy costs must be tackled to ensure UK steelmakers’ survival, it concludes.

Adam Smith, Poland