Up to 440 British steel jobs are now at risk as the government fails to exploit the opportunities presented by Brexit, fails to deal with massive increase in energy costs to industry, and betrays Britain’s steel workers.
Liberty Steel UK is to reduce production at its Rotherham site which could see 185 workers made redundant. A further 215 jobs could go as Liberty “idles” its sites in Newport, West Bromwich and Tredegar with a view to restarting these plants when conditions allow.
Alun Davies, National Officer of steel union Community, criticised the government for failing to deliver its promise on competitive energy costs, risking the future of British steel manufacturing which supports over 30,000 jobs in the industry and another 40,000 across the supply chain.
“It’s past time for government to decide whether it wants a steel industry in this country.”
“Government must play their part, stop the dithering and act to deliver the competitive energy prices our industry so desperately needs,” he said. “Steelworkers have had enough of warm words, it’s past time for government to decide whether it wants a steel industry in this country.”
This latest development follows the government’s decision in December 2022 not to award a £1.6 billion contract for three new 40,000-tonne Royal Navy support vessels to a British consortium, instead giving the contract to a consortium led by Madrid-based Navantia. While some of the work on the contract will be carried out in Britain, much of the work will go to Cadiz in Spain.
This is despite calls on the government by unions – and others, including former First Sea Lord Alan West – to secure the future of the strategically important British steel industry by ensuring that government contracts are awarded to British firms using British steel, exploiting the fact that following Brexit, Britain is no longer obliged by EU law to put its contracts out to tender outside of the country.
Unions are now pressing the government to guarantee that only British steel is used on the contract. Prospect General Secretary Mike Clancy tweeted, “Having squandered one opportunity to maximise the benefit to UK shipbuilding, it’s critical that the Government doesn’t repeat its betrayal by using foreign steel to build British warships.”