Redcar steel plant to close with 1,700 job cuts

MANAGEMENT at the giant SSI Redcar steel plant last week announced they were mothballing the factory with the loss of 1,700 jobs — just three years after SSI had reopened it after the previous owners, Tata Steel, had mothballed it.

The Thai-based company blamed a global lack of demand for steel and falling prices that caused losses the company could not sustain.

Cornelius Louwrens, SSI’s UK chief operating officer, said: “I think this is devastating. There’s no words you can use which would be overstating it.”

He added: “This is an extremely sad day for all of us at SSI UK, and in particular our employees and their families. Together with our parent company and the various other stakeholders, they have worked so hard in their endeavours to try and make this business successful. Market conditions this year have been extremely challenging and unfortunately this has led to the decision we are announcing today.”

Production at the Redcar plant was suspended on 18th September. Coke ovens and a power station at the site will continue to function.

The workforce and their families have been campaigning hard to keep the plant open and were devastated when they heard it was being mothballed with little prospect of it being re-opened in the near future.

SSI said it had carried out an assessment of the business situation it faced and had concluded there was “no other option” but to mothball its iron and steel making facilities on Teesside.

The steel works were founded in Redcar in 1917. The plant was mothballed by previous owner Tata Steel in 2010. SSI spent millions of pounds making the furnace ready again and it was relit in 2012.

Unions called for Government intervention to keep the industry alive. GMB union national officer, Dave Hulse, said: “The Government has got to take some responsibility for this. They can still intervene to save Redcar and the thousands of jobs that rely on the plant.”

body blow

Branding the announcement a “body blow to the community”, Unite national officer Harish Patel said: “This is devastating news for Redcar and the thousands of people who depend on the steelworks for their livelihoods. Steel is the lifeblood of the local economy and runs through the community’s veins.

“The Government’s much vaunted Northern Powerhouse risks being nothing more than empty rhetoric unless it steps in with assistance to save the SSI plant on Redcar.

“With so many livelihoods at stake and the UK steel industry at crisis point government ministers need to follow the lead of their counterparts in France, Italy and Germany by pursuing an active industrial strategy which supports the UK’s steel industry.

“Over the coming days Unite will be doing everything we can to support our members and the community and pressing government ministers to intervene and save our steel.”

The Community union said it would be calling an urgent meeting with SSI. General secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “Steelmaking on Teesside must have a future and our fight to save our steel will continue.

“These vital industrial skills have been passed down through the generations and must not be lost. That blast furnace must not become a monument to 170 years of history and it must be mothballed properly to preserve its integrity and give it the chance of a future.”

Labour MP Anna Turley accused SSI of playing “fast and loose” with the plant’s future, and claimed the Government could have done more to prevent the closure. She said: “It’s absolutely heart-breaking, it’s devastating.

“Redcar was built on steelmaking, Teesside was built on steelmaking. It’s about generations of people that have worked in that blast furnace and fought so hard, not just in the last few days but in the last few weeks, months, years, to keep steelmaking alive. It’s just been allowed to fizzle out.”

She called for the Government to take control of the site and its assets to ensure a future for steelmaking on Teesside and in Britain.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said SSI’s decision was a blow to Osborne’s stated ambition to revitalise business in the north of England to create a “northern powerhouse”.

She said: “The future of British steel-making is at a crossroads. The Chancellor must provide more financial support for manufacturers in November’s spending review. If the government does nothing plants like SSI will continue to close.”