Community has voiced its concerns about British Steel’s plans to close the blast furnace at Scunthorpe steelworks. The proposals would see the blast furnace replaced by two electric arc furnaces (EAFs) – one in Scunthorpe and one in Teesside – with significant job losses. Coupled with Tata Steel’s proposal to close the blast furnaces at Port Talbot Steelworks, this would mean the UK would no longer be able to produce primary steel products and would be reliant on dirty steel imports from a turbulent and unreliable international market.
Community Union General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said:
“Community acknowledges British Steel’s early engagement on proposals to transition to green steel and we welcome the company’s commitment to support our experts to scrutinise their plans. It is deeply disappointing however that once again our members first heard of these plans through irresponsible leaks to the media.
“We are deeply concerned by British Steel’s plans for an EAF-only approach at Scunthorpe and Teesside, and it is vital a meaningful consultation takes place to assess all the options to secure the future of steelmaking. Were they to be realised the plans that British Steel has announced, combined with Tata Steel’s plans, would leave the UK unable to make steel from raw materials and dangerously exposed to international markets. Community firmly believes that the blast furnaces continue to be vital in any responsible transition to green steelmaking.
“Even the Government’s own backbenchers recognise that an EAF-only approach is dangerous and foolhardy, with the Conservative Northern Research Group only this weekend urging the Prime Minister to intervene to keep the blast furnaces open.
“All options for decarbonisation must remain on the table, and Community will do whatever it takes to protect our members interests. With the right commitment from all stakeholders we can deliver a just transition that saves our planet, saves our jobs, and saves our steel.”
Community has continually highlighted how an EAF-only approach is the wrong solution to decarbonising the steel industry. Such an approach would require the import of virgin steel to supplement scrap steel used in furnaces – meaning that carbon emissions would be exported to heavy-polluting countries and the industry would no longer be self-sufficient in the UK. This is dangerous both for the national economy and national security. Alternatives such as Direct Reduced Iron, Hydrogen, Carbon Capture, and other technologies are available.
Industrial experts Syndex will soon be publishing a report on alternative methods of decarbonising the steel industry at Port Talbot and will be scrutinising British Steel’s plans for Scunthorpe and Teesside. The report is set to include recommendations on a phased transition towards electrified steelmaking.
Community is the trade union for steelworkers, providing a first class service to those working in blue and white collar roles across steelworks, foundries and manufacturing. More steelworkers are members of Community than any other union. We have a history dating back over a century, representing members and campaigning to protect Britain’s steel industry. We are a modern trade union, campaigning for a better working world.