Hartlepool steel fight goes to Westminster

Steel workers unfurl a banner in Parliament Square, London, during a protest calling on the government to help save the UK steel industry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 28, 2015. See PA story INDUSTRY Steel. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Steel workers unfurl a banner in Parliament Square, London, during a protest calling on the government to help save the UK steel industry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 28, 2015. See PA story INDUSTRY Steel. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Workers have taken the fight to save Britain’s steel industry to the House of Commons.

Scores of workers lobbied MPs in Parliament ahead of an Opposition Day debate on the steel industry, which saw Labour press for immediate measures to prevent further job cuts.

Workers are feeling angry and shell shocked - some still don’t seem to believe what has happened.

Kevin Cook

Unions said a visit to Brussels by Business Secretary Sajid Javid was a “PR stunt”.

Thousands of job cuts have been announced in recent weeks by Tata Steel and SSI in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Scotland, with cheap imports and high energy and emissions costs being blamed.

Further losses are threatened at steel processing giant Caparo Industries, which has gone into administration. The firm employs almost 100 people at its site in Brenda Road, Hartlepool.

Workers wore T-shirts bearing the slogan Save Our Steel as they gathered in Westminster, saying they wanted to impress on ministers the urgency of the crisis.

The Unite and Community trade unions organised the lobby amid fears of fresh job cuts.

Kevin Cook, who has worked for 39 years at the SSI plant in Redcar, which is closing with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs, said workers were still “shell shocked” by recent events.

He revealed that workers with less than three years’ service have only received two weeks of redundancy pay, capped at £475 a week.

“We are trying to sort out redundancy and pension arrangements but it is an absolute nightmare. Workers are feeling angry and shell shocked - some still don’t seem to believe what has happened.”

The Business Secretary said he will tell officials in Brussels that urgent action across Europe is needed to tackle the crisis in the steel industry.

Mr Javid is calling for an emergency European Union meeting to discuss the state of the industry and unfair trade practices.

He was holding talks with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, internal market commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and vice-president Jyrki Katainen.

The Business Secretary said: “I want to see steel top of the EU agenda. We cannot stand by while the steel industry across Europe, not just in the UK, faces such unprecedented challenges.

“There are no straightforward solutions to the complex global challenges but the UK Government wants to work with the EU and our European partners to do all we can to support our steel industry.”

Mr Javid has also been in negotiations with the commission on speeding up work to approve the UK’s Energy Intensive Industries (EII) compensation scheme, which could benefit steelmakers.

David Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The Secretary of State is shameless in addressing the crisis in the UK steel industry with spin and PR stunts.

“The latest stunt of a trip to Brussels follows the Steel Summit talking shop. The complete lack of any action on dumping and energy prices, which can only be tackled by Government, has given rise to a wave of fear that even more jobs will be lost.”

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said: “This Tory Government has sat on its hands whilst the industry has descended into crisis. They abandoned the people of Redcar, and it has taken thousands of job losses before they have even talked about action.

“The Business Secretary has shown no leadership in Europe and is only visiting after the Opposition has dragged him to this position.

“We have had weeks of talking, now we need action.

“The Government should stop hiding behind Europe when it comes to the Energy Intensive Industries compensation scheme, and should implement the scheme immediately, and get retrospective state aid approval.”