MINISTERS WILL be urged to ask the European Union for cash to help workers hit by the closure of the Redcar steelworks at a summit in South Yorkshire today.
The meeting of Ministers, MPs, company chief executives and trade union officials follows the demise of the SSI plant in Redcar and concerns about the wider pressure in the steel industry from plunging prices.
MPs are expected to ask Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who is chairing the summit, why the Government has so far failed to apply for EU aid to help Redcar steelworkers.
The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund provides money to help workers retrain for other jobs.
Last year £2.5 million was given to help 1,000 Romanian steelworkers who lost their jobs and it is estimated Redcar could qualify for more than £5 million in aid.
Mr Javid is also expected to be questioned over the Government’s insistence that European state aid rules tie its hands when it comes to helping the steel industry when other EU countries have taken action.
Speaking ahead of the summit in Rotherham, Mr Javid said: “This is a hugely difficult time for the steel industry across the world – one of the toughest times ever.
“It is a worldwide problem, and while it will not be solved overnight, we will work closely in partnership with the industry to help find some answers.
“There is no magic bullet and we can’t change the price of steel, but we can forensically work through all of the challenges we know the industry is facing to see what solutions there might be.
“We will also continue to do everything we can to support workers and to continue building a strong economy across the country.”
The price of steel is expected to have fallen by 1.7 per cent by the end of this year with only a slight increase forecast for next year.
The devaluing of the Chinese yuan and the Russian rouble have put further pressure on prices.
The Chinese have also been accused of “dumping” heavily subsidised steel on global markets.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said: “The Government scandalously missed opportunities to intervene and protect the industrial assets in Redcar, which has left a community devastated and taxpayers picking up a bill of hundreds of millions to clean the site.
“This must not be allowed to happen again and what has happened in Redcar should focus everyone’s minds.”
Yesterday marked the final shifts to work at Redcar as the coke ovens and blast furnace are shut down after Thai owners SSI went into liquidation and no buyer was found.