Fears for Hartlepool jobs after Tata Steel announces its UK assets are for sale

Steel giant Tata has confirmed plans to sell its UK assets, threatening thousands of job cuts - including hundreds in Hartlepool.

Wednesday, 30th March 2016, 9:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2016, 10:31 am
Tata Steel has announced plans to sell off its UK assets.

Unions reacted with shock and anger at the company's decision, taken at a board meeting in Mumbai.

Labour has led calls for the Government to intervene to save the industry from total collapse.

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Hartlepool MP Labour’s Iain Wright also took to social media. A tweet posted on Twitter, late last night, said: “All possible options must be considered by UK Govt to maintain British steelmaking capacity in light of the decision.”

Shares in the company climbed more than 1% when trading opened in India this morning.

In January,Tata announced 62 of the 500-strong workforce would be losing their jobs at its steel mill in Hartlepool.

In a statement issued in Mumbai, Tata said it noted with "deep concern" the deteriorating financial performance of its UK subsidiary in the last year.

"While the global steel demand, especially in developed markets like Europe has remained muted following the financial crisis of 2008, trading conditions in the UK and Europe have rapidly deteriorated more recently, due to structural factors including global oversupply of steel, significant increase in third country exports into Europe, high manufacturing costs, continued weakness in domestic market demand in steel and a volatile currency.

"These factors are likely to continue into the future and have significantly impacted the long term competitive position of the UK operations in spite of several initiatives undertaken by the management and the workers of the business in recent years."

Tata said it had suffered "asset impairment" of more than £2billion in the last five years.

The board unanimously concluded that a plan aimed at saving plants including Port Talbot in South Wales was unaffordable, said Tata, adding it had been in "deep engagement" with the UK Government in recent months seeking its support to achieve the best possible outcome for the UK business.

"Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the board of its European holding company ie Tata Steel Europe, to explore all options for portfolio restructuring, including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts."

The threat to steel industry jobs in Teesside following Tata’s decision to sell off its UK business news has angered local UKIP MEP member Jonathan Arnott.

He said: “These jobs, and others at sites elsewhere in the country, face extinction because of EU policies which have led to this tragic state of affairs.

“The USA has imposed anti-dumping tariffs of 266% on Chinese steel but we have just tinkered around the edges with only up to 25% which has not helped our workers one jot,” said Mr Arnott.

“Our energy costs are high thanks our ridiculous commitment to unreliable renewable power sources and while there are calls for state aid that is a dead duck as it is not allowed under EU state aid rules.

“Previous generations would find the collapse in the British steel industry totally unbelievable. It is wrong that our hands are tied by Brussels and our government is not prepared to put the livelihood of British workers before foreign red tape,” said Mr Arnott.

“Only by leaving the EU can we put the Great back in Britain but even after Brexit our government will need to take the right decisions; I fear it will be a race against time for our steelworkers,” he added.

A joint statement from the UK and Welsh governments released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "This is a difficult time for workers in Port Talbot and across the UK.

"During the review process, we remain committed to working with Tata and the unions on a long-term sustainable future for British steel making.

"Both the UK and Welsh governments are working tirelessly to look at all viable options to keep a strong British steel industry at the heart of our manufacturing base."

Labour said ministers had "gone missing " while the crisis gripping the steel industry has unfolded.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency, possibly by taking a public stake in the industry.

There were calls for the Welsh Assembly to be recalled from the Easter recess to discuss the crisis.

Union leaders travelled to Mumbai where the Tata board met to discuss the company's loss making UK business.

They had been hoping Tata would agree to a turnaround plan to keep steelmaking in Port Talbot and other UK plants. The news will affect other Tata sites including Rotherham, Corby and Shotton.

Tata announced over 1,000 job cuts in January, including 750 in Port Talbot.

Thousands of steel jobs have been lost in the past year, with companies blaming cheap Chinese imports and high energy costs.

Mr Corbyn said he was "deeply concerned" at the news, adding: "Ministers must act now to protect the steel industry and the core of manufacturing in Britain.

"It is vital that the Government intervenes to maintain steel production in Port Talbot, both for the workforce and the wider economy, if necessary by taking a public stake in the industry."

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who is with the union delegation in Mumbai, had urged Tatato "hold its nerve " in the face of the problems it was facing. He was critical of the Government for not sending a minister to lobby the Tata meeting.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid is in Australia on an official trip.

The decision came completely out of the blue to union officials.

Dave Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: "This is absolutely devastating news for all our members, their families and the local communities. Tata has let the whole of the UK steel industry down."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is a very dark day for the proud communities and a proud industry which is now on the verge of extinction in this country."

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: "We travelled to Mumbai to secure a future for steel making in South Wales and we are disappointed that the future remains uncertain, not just for Welsh steelworkers but for thousands more workers in Tata's businesses elsewhere in the UK."