Liberty announced in May that up to 1,500 jobs were at risk after it confirmed it was placing its South Yorkshire aerospace and steel business on the market as part of a major restructuring in the wake of its main financial backer, Greensill Capital.
The company is still engaged in a formal sale process meaning that its Stocksbridge plant, alongside its manufacturing facilities in Brinsworth in South Yorkshire are to be sold. Sites in Coventry, Kidderminster and Essex are also up for sale.
Instead, Liberty wants to focus its attention on its Rotherham hub, where it plans to make two million tonnes of green steel.
However, The Yorkshire Post can reveal that multiple trade unions have secured an agreement that will see Liberty's proposals subjected to an independent review.
The National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee, which includes both Unite and the GMB, have convinced Liberty to submit their business plans to the union’s external experts, the Syndex consultancy, for what they described as “detailed analysis”. A Liberty spokesperson confirmed the agreement had been reached.
In a joint statement the unions said: “This crucial work will take place over the coming weeks and Syndex will tell us whether the plans stack up and what they mean for the workforce.
“This is an important development and we are pleased that Liberty has recognised the value of submitting their plans for independent review.
“The last few months have been full of worry and uncertainty for the workforce and we all have many unanswered questions. While we do not have the answers today, we now have a process to channel our questions and pursue our concerns.
“Rest assured, if we believe Liberty’s plans fall short the unions will be representing our members’ interests and vigorously challenging the company.”
Liberty confirmed earlier this week that it is still looking for a buyer for its South Yorkshire factories and that it was “continuing to assess a sales process”.
Bosses have been looking for a buyer for the site for more than a month amid pressure on the GFG Alliance, of which Liberty Steel is a part.
GFG had borrowed heavily from Greensill Capital, a supply chain finance lender, racking up multibillion-dollar arrangements.
But administrators for Greensill now want that money back after the lender collapsed in March, forcing GFG to refinance its operations.
The joint statement added: “The unions have been clear Liberty must first convince the workforce that their plans will secure jobs and the future of every UK site.
“We’ve all heard Sanjeev Gupta promising that none of our plants will close on his watch – and we will hold him to that commitment.”
Meanwhile GFG said it is progressing in its bid to refinance part of its Australian operations.
A potential deal with business lender White Oak will be enough to pay the unit’s Greensill debt in full, GFG said.
The business said it is also making moves elsewhere, in Europe, the UK and Australia.
Liberty Steel’s UK managing director, Jon Ferriman, stood down yesterday and Roy Chowdhury, a turnaround and industry expert, has been named as the firm’s new CEO.
A Liberty Steel spokesperson said: “Liberty Steel’s board and management are working with employees, and their representatives, suppliers, customers and others to secure a sustainable future for the UK businesses.
“One aspect of that work is recognising and utilising the value that Syndex – acting on behalf of trade unions – can bring to securing that future.”