The steelworkers’ trade union Community has today (15 May) issued the following statement on the ongoing situation at British Steel:
This is of course an extremely concerning time for our members at British Steel. Everyone needs to do everything possible to give the company the chance of a future. We would urge all parties to recognise the consequences of not taking the necessary steps to ensure British Steel can continue. Nobody wants to see another tragedy like SSI.
Community welcomed the recent announcement that the government would lend British Steel £120m to cover the costs of their 2018 carbon emissions. British Steel had not been awarded their carbon credit allocations as normal under the scheme due to Brexit. It is right that the government compensates companies that are suffering due to the government’s failure to resolve Brexit.
However Brexit is not the only factor contributing to the situation at British Steel and it is not solely the government’s responsibility to find a solution to keep the company trading. That’s why in recent days Community has been in dialogue with British Steel management, the government, and the owners Greybull Capital, to impress on all parties the importance of reaching an agreement.
When in 2016 Greybull bought Tata Steel’s long products division and formed British Steel, Community welcomed their involvement and has worked constructively with the owner since that time. But we should be clear that through acquiring the business, Greybull also took on responsibility for nearly 5,000 jobs and for the communities and supply chains that depend on these steel plants.
Greybull gave the business a way forward at a time when there were few options available. However since 2016 Greybull has taken on limited risk and the coming hours and days will be a true test of their commitment to the UK steel industry. Greybull must step up and deliver on their social and moral responsibilities to the workforce.
It is vital an agreement is reached between the owners and the government that keeps the business running and capable of delivering the capital investment plan. Furthermore British steel must not become a political football and we call on politicians from all parties to work together to find a solution that secures the jobs and the business going forward. There are no easy solutions to the challenges faced by British Steel and indeed other UK steel companies.