Job fears at Hartlepool Tata Steel mill

Tata Steel, Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture By FRANK REID
Tata Steel, Brenda Road, Hartlepool. Picture By FRANK REID

A GIANT steel firm has indicated it won’t dispose of UK assets despite heavy losses - but union chiefs say they still have concerns.

Officials from the Community trade union spoke following Tata Steel announcing losses of £840m after wiping £1 billion off the value of its European arm, which employs 18,500 people in the UK.

The firm, which has a giant plant in Brenda Road, Hartlepool, said “severely depressed conditions” in Europe and the UK had left steel demand almost 30 per cent lower than 2008 pre-recession levels.

But bosses said the position had since got better and underlying performance in the region had improved with increased volumes in the last quarter.

However, union chiefs say they still have concerns.

Roy Rickhuss, from the Community trade union which represents many UK steel workers, said: “Whilst the last quarter shows there are some indications of improvement and the company have again today repeated there are no plans to cut back on investment or dispose of assets in the UK, the situation overall remains of concern the employees and their families.”

He said Michael Leahy, the union’s general secretary, had arranged to meet the Tata Steel chief executive Karl Kohler in London next week.

Unions have said the company’s woes will concern staff in the UK after 900 jobs were cut last year.

That included 90 at the Hartlepool site.

Tata, which bought Anglo-Dutch steel giant Corus in 2007 for £6.2 billion, has endured a tough time during the downturn as demand from construction and car-making dived, forcing thousands of lay-offs and plant closures.

Its UK employees represent more than half of the company’s European workforce.

The firm announced its latest wave of redundancies in November as part of a drive to cut costs.

Announcing the results, Tata said deliveries were down in its European operations over the year, largely due to repairs and outages, but that the re-lighting of a blast furnace at Port Talbot after a £220 million re-build has helped performance in the fourth quarter.

The company said that it was continuing a programme of restructuring, cost-cutting and efficiency while also taking on 500 apprentices in the UK over the past couple of years.

The firm’s Hartlepool plant employs around 600 workers.