Community, the steelworkers’ union, is today (Thursday 8th Feb) hosting a major conference of workers, employers, industry experts and politicians from all across the UK. The event is held at Redcar & Cleveland College, in the shadow of old SSI steelworks which tragically closed in 2015. Over 100 steelworkers will attend the conference, representing more than 20 different steel companies.
Richard Harrington MP, the UK Government business minister responsible for the steel industry, will deliver a keynote speech to the conference, as well as Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community. Senior executives from Tata Steel, British Steel, Liberty Steel, and Celsa Steel, will also address conference.
The conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on the events of recent years, and Community’s fight to save British steelmaking. The UK steel industry has changed dramatically in the past decade, and although the steel crisis has left the headlines, the long term future of the industry is a long way from being secured.
Roy Rickhuss, Community’s General Secretary, will say:
“The steel crisis may have left the headlines, but there are big challenges ahead. Challenges that all of us; steelworkers, employers, and politicians, must face together.
“Half of all the steel produced in the UK is exported and 70% of this goes to the EU. The post-Brexit trade relationship with Europe and the Customs Bill currently going through parliament could have huge consequences for our industry. We simply cannot afford for government to get these wrong.
“On energy, UK steel producers are still paying over 50% more for their electricity than companies in France and Germany. If post-Brexit Britain is to be a nation of makers and innovators, then we simply cannot operate at such a long-term disadvantage.
“The ‘steel sector deal’ set out an ambitious plan to tackle some of these problems, unlock new investment and safeguard thousands of jobs.
“I am pleased to work closely and constructively with the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the successful conclusion of a steel sector deal should be the utmost priority for all of us.
“When some said that steelmaking was a thing of the past, we refused to accept that. We won that argument, but the struggle is far from over.
“Together, I believe we can get the job done – and together, we can deliver the industry our parents and grandparents built, as a modern, growing, prosperous inheritance for our children and grandchildren.”