Bright times are predicted for Hartlepool’s steel mills - with “right vision and investment”

Tata Steel, Hartlepool.

Tata Steel, Hartlepool.

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Hartlepool’s steel mills could have a bright future if they are sold off - as long as they have “the right vision and investment,” a union chief has suggested.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, responded to news that two of the pipe mills, in Brenda Road, Hartlepool – where 500 people are employed – will be put up for sale, along with the South Yorkshire-based Speciality Steels business.

Nither the speciality business nor two of the Hartlepool tube mills are part of the Port Talbot supply chain, so an argument could be made that they could have a successful future on their own with the right vision and investment.

Roy Rickhuss

Hartlepool’s 20-inch Tube Mill is not part of the deal. Talks are at a preliminary stage and Tata said there can be no certainty of a transaction.

But Mr Rickhuss called for Tata to recognise the anger and frustrations that workers must be feeling.

He spoke of the new approach for the future of Tata’s steel operations in the UK, to sell of the speciality business, and said the test would come in “the next steps that Tata takes.”

But he added: “Tata must also recognise the level of frustration, even anger, among the workforce over these delays and uncertainty. It is vital that they work with Community to reassure and protect the greatest asset to the business – its people.”

“As regards the speciality business and the operation in Hartlepool, as we have said before, Tata needs to be a responsible seller, upholding its moral and social responsibilities to those steel communities.

“The sales process must test both the intentions and capabilities of any potential bidders, Tata must allow Community direct access to any bidder and there should be no further fragmentation of these businesses. Neither the speciality business nor two of the Hartlepool tube mills are part of the Port Talbot supply chain, so an argument could be made that they could have a successful future on their own with the right vision and investment.”

Mr Rickhuss suggested selling the Hartlepool operation may not be the best way forward, and there were “significant advantages to being part of a larger steel group. Indeed, this has been an important factor in sustaining these businesses in recent years.”

Last week, Tata announced it would explore strategic alternatives for its UK business, including the potential sale of the business as a whole or in parts.

Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director and Tata Steel’s Executive Director for Europe, said separate processes would begin for the potential sale of the Hartlepool pipe mills (other than the 20-inch Tube Mill) in the UK.

He said they had “their own specific characteristics” and indicated Tata Steel UK has already received interest from several bidders.

Mr Chatterjee said a formal process “will be commencing shortly.”