Comments from Tata Steel Europe’s chief executive Karl Koehler’s that the firms’ Long Products Europe operation “has no future” within the company’s operations beyond April is “yet another bitter blow for steel on Teesside and across the UK” claims local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop.
Tom Blenkinsop said:
“With depressing regularity over the past 7 or 8 weeks, thousands and thousands of good, honest, hardworking men and women across Teesside have had their livelihoods taken away from them. Unless something is done fast, 700 workers could be out of a job by April next year.
“Clearly we are going through a crisis in British steel and companies, such as Tata, should hold firm before writing off sites, or whole sections, without guaranteeing a new owner at the very least.
“However, these are insensitive comments from Mr Koehler. Many of the workers were already worried about their future and this only adds to those concerns. Creating speculation, or indeed playing high stakes poker with an entire steel division is not the message that Tata would want to give to Britain nor indeed internationally after painstakingly developing an excellent reputation for corporate responsibility to theirs workforce.
“The Chief executive should rescind his comments and give clarity to his long products workforce who are still creating profits for their parent company.”
Redcar MP, Anna Turley, and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (14th October 2015) assailed Government Business Minister over comments made in a letter on the government response to the SSI jobs crisis.
Anna and Tom said:
“In this letter the Minister, Sajid Javid, shoots himself in the foot. He tries to compare the famous £86 million theoretically allocated by the government to Teesside (and which includes the statutory redundancy due to the thousands of people affected) with an earlier response by the Gordon Brown Labour Government in 2010, when Tata announced the mothballing of the Lackenby and Redcar iron and steelmaking plants. At that time, he says, only £60 million was allocated.
“This is a ridiculous statement and is a vain attempt to try and dress up a denuded and raddled cash response from government ministries. The trust is that of that £60 million, all was new money. Nothing went on paying out statutory redundancy. Instead the cash – £30 million from the reserves of the now defunct Regional Development Agency, One NE, and £30 million from central government – went entirely on an ambitious programme of development in the process industry sector, and for training and re-training in the process industry sector – an area where steel making staff had expertise. It was real cash that created real jobs, unlike today’s flimsy programme.
“As well as refusing our pleas to separate out the statutory redundancy element from the package, we are also now beginning to pick up strong indications that training bodies and local colleges are being told that they have to look to their own existing revenue budgets to set up new courses and new initiatives for people made jobless by the closure. Tees Valley Colleges are being told that they have to use an already depleted – and already committed – adult skills budget, with no new real cash, and work programme providers are being told that they have to use their own existing mainstream budgets from the DWP to meet the increased demand. Day by day the glossy exterior of the government response is peeling away to show the tawdry reality.”
Friday 2nd October 2015
“Today is one of the darkest faced by the Teesside community. Steelmaking, for so long, has been the foundation for how our area has evolved. It has provided livelihoods for thousands of families over many generations and that remained the case even this morning.
“I know these words will be of little consolation to all those workers affected by the announcement today but my heart goes out to them and their families. It is absolutely devastating and I just wish that I was able to do more for them.
“The manner in which SSI have handled this crisis is shameful. On their website they have a list of their values as, amongst others: “honesty, respect, professionalism and transparency” – in the past few weeks all of those have been missing and the workforce have been completely failed.
“The £80m support package for those who have lost their jobs is welcome but requires some clarification. In particular, is the money above and beyond statutory redundancy that the Government is liable for following the company going into liquidation?
“I, along with my colleagues and Community Trade Union, continue to urge the Government to ensure intervene in terms of ensuring the site is mothballed in a safe and secure way otherwise there will be no chance for steelmaking to come back in the future.”
Responding to reports that Evraz, the steel and mining giant, is due to receive a £45m loan from Britain’s export credit agency, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Whilst it is good that workers in Sheffield might benefit from this loan, I fail to see why the Government seems impotent when it comes to providing financial support for steelworkers directly here in the UK, and in particular those 1700 steel workers across Teesside who are losing their jobs
“Steelworkers on Teesside will be furious that taxpayers’ money is being used in this way. David Cameron and his Government have been silent on the crisis at Redcar and this is just another kick in the teeth.
“As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Steel, I have written to the Prime Minister to raise my concerns over how this money is being used, particularly in light of what is happening on Teesside and whilst the UK steel industry is essentially on its knees.”
Teesside Labour MPs Anna Turley and Tom Blenkinsop have secured a visit to Teesside from industry minister Anna Soubry and will be presenting a rescue plan for the steelworks to her.
Ms Soubry, the Minister of State for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, will be meeting Anna and Tom in Redcar tomorrow.
“I am really pleased we have been able to secure this visit so that the minister can see first-hand how much the steelworks means to Teesside and why urgent action is needed to secure it.
“Tom and I will be putting a rescue plan for the SSI site to her which will involve working with a number of partners including the unions, local British businesses and organisations in the region.
“The plan will propose a way in which the site can be properly secured, keeping the blast furnace lit so that one day when the market turns Teesside will be able to produce steel again.
“But the plan will only work if all partners, including the government, sit down and work together on the details. We hope the minister will commit to doing this tomorrow.”
“We have a plan to rescue this asset. The government doesn’t. The plan might not work. But it definitely won’t if we don’t try. It’s now up to them to work with us here in the region to save steelmaking on Teesside.”
In response to the announcement by SSI UK that over 1,700 jobs are to be lost at their Redcar site. Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, said:
“My first thoughts are with the 1,700 workers, and their families, who have lost their jobs today.
“The steel industry on Teesside has proved it’s resilience in the past, but the Government must now step in to ensure that any mothball process is done properly to safeguard against any shortfalls which SSI may have and to ensure the site is in a suitable condition to be used again.
“As the Prime Minister said, in a response to my question, the Government must “do everything [it] can to keep steelmaking in Redcar” now is the time to prove that those words were more than an empty promise.
“I fear that local management have had their hands tied by the executive of SSI in Thailand, and the UK government must ensure that this is not the case.
“These redundancies are a huge blow but we’ve fought back from this position before. It is clear from all of the support over the last week: the vigil, the huge banner at the Boro match, local business putting up the ‘Save Our Steel’ posters; that the area will fight back to ensure steelmaking has a future on Teesside.”
Commenting on reports today (18th September 2015) that SSI UK have paused production at the Teesside plant, Tom Blenkinsop said:
“My immediate thoughts are with those workers at South Bank Coke Ovens which has been mothballed with immediate effect. This was initially in the pipeline for March 2016. I know unions will be working closely with those workers to offer all the support they can but my heart goes out to those workers and their families.
“As far as I am concerned the ball remains in play to secure a viable future for steel production in Redcar and Teesside.
“Undeniably, the situation at the steelworks remains critical and obviously there are many questions that need to be answered by SSI following their announcement – particularly in terms of duration for this course of action.
“In the meantime, I can only echo my calls yesterday for Government intervention into this crisis.”
Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Steel Tom Blenkinsop today (17th September 2015) urged the Government to join the fight to save the steelworks in Redcar.
Following on from reports earlier in the week that suggested the site and 2,000 jobs in Redcar were at risk after the owners SSI failed to pay back several loans amounting to £80m in June, a debate on the UK steel industry was secured by Anna Turley, MP for Redcar.
During the debate, Tom said:
“In 2012 steel making, against all the odds, had returned to Teesside; people’s livelihoods had been restored; and an opportunity to carry on the tradition of steel making had been created for future generations.
“Since SSI bought the site and relit the furnace in 2012 I think it is fair to say that the journey to where we are now has been a bumpy one. Indeed we find ourselves almost on a cliff edge as to whether the company can continue to operate at all.
“[Over the next few weeks SSI] must realise that the workers at the site are not so naïve that they don’t understand the difficulty the company finds itself in, so it is essential that SSI respects this and maintains a clear and honest dialogue with the workers and trade unions at the site. I do believe there is role for the Government to play in in ensuring talks firstly take place and then continue.
“If the prospect of 2,000 hardworking people losing their livelihoods doesn’t spurn the Government into action immediately then I despair.
“The fight for the steelworks at Redcar is one we are ready to have and the government needs to find the political will to act.”
Commenting on reports that SSI, the owners of the Redcar steel plant, failed to pay back several loans totalling around £80m to lenders in June, local Labour MP & Chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group for Steel, Tom Blenkinsop said:
“The onus now is very much on the Government to act. The Banks have set a deadline for the end of September so urgency is paramount.
“I welcome the news that my Labour colleague in Redcar, Anna Turley, has secured a debate in Parliament this Thursday to discuss this vital issue. I will also be using the Prime Minister’s Question that I have secured to raise the topic and I have already arranged to meet with Anna Soubry, the Government Minister whose portfolio includes the steel industry.
“The livelihoods of over 2,000 workers are on the line and I, along with my Labour colleagues and Community Trade Union have been pressing the Government for a number of years now on how it can act to help ease the pressures faced by, not only the steelworks in Redcar, but across the UK. Now is the time for the Government to stand up and meet that challenge.”
Commenting on reports that Anglo-American industrialist Gary Klesch is not pursuing the purchase of Tata Steel’s Long Products division, Labour MP & Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Since the arrival of Klesch as a potential buyer for several Teesside-based steel operations I have had my concerns and doubts over his commitment to the steel industry. He has a diverse business background owning companies such as Knickerbox, French shoe manufacturers and oil refineries I did question ‘how much real interest does the group owner, Gary Klesch, have in steel?’
“Whilst he has identified some key challenges facing the UK steel industry such as dumping imports from China and high energy costs – I do feel that Tata’s decision, and one supported by workers, to make the Long Products division a standalone business offers it the best chance of success in the future.
“Meanwhile, the Business Secretary apparently doesn’t want to talk about industrial strategy – at just the point when the steel industry needs an active government strategy to support tens of thousands of skilled UK jobs, not to mention the vital contribution being made to UK supply chains and infrastructure projects.
“Ministers took the right action on anti-dumping support last month – but this is just one small part of the picture. They need to act urgently on the rest.”