“We need leadership” – Industry calls for action to save British steel

Speaking to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee today, leading figures of the steel industry called for leadership from the government and employers to protect the future of the U.K. steel industry.

Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, warned the committee that “decisive, game-changing action” was needed to secure the future of the sector. Mr Rickhuss further said that “government have a massive role to play” in creating a positive environment where people want to invest in British steel, and called on employers to work with unions to form a joined up plan for the industry’s future.

When asked about steelworkers, Mr Rickhuss said the steel workforce was fully behind the drive to net-zero and a move towards green steel and had frequently risen to the challenges and changes the sector has faced. Responding to a question from Charlotte Nichols MP, he stated that “we believe there is a way… to decarbonise and make our steel industry green… where we protect jobs, avoid redundancies and create employment in areas that desperately need it”.

However, the unions believe a just transition is needed, and there were wider concerns amongst the steel workforce that “nobody seems to be doing anything”.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive Officer of the Materials Processing Institute, added his endorsement to the Just Transition strategy, saying: “If we are going to make a success of the green industry revolution we desperately need to incentivise and retrain people displaced from the steel industry to work in those areas as well… We will fail to achieve the new economy that we want and the growth in the green industrial revolution unless we also commit to a just transition.”

The Committee comes the day after the announcement from Liberty Steel that they intend to sell Stocksbridge and its downstream plants. Speaking to the Committee on this announcement, Roy Rickhuss said there’s “a lot of worried steelworkers” around uncertainty and key decisions not being taken.

The Committee also comes less than a week after the Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate (TRID) recommended the scrapping of steel safeguards on half of all steel products in June.  Unions wrote to the Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss condemning the decision, stating that “The Government must reconsider this appalling decision which threatens jobs and puts the future of our industry at risk.”

Gareth Stace, Director General of UK Steel, stated that the government had still not delivered action on previous promises for the steel industry. He earlier argued that overcapacity and overproduction from China presented a major threat to the UK steel industry, with even a minor shift in Chinese exports dramatically altering the global market and flooding the U.K.

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