Steel firm Liberty planning 280 job cuts in South Yorkshire

Liberty Steel in South YorkshireLiberty Steel in South Yorkshire
Liberty Steel in South Yorkshire
A steel company has announced plans to cut 280 jobs at its Yorkshire plant in response to "challenging" market conditions and a lingering reduction in demand for UK steel products.

Liberty Steel Group said it will consult with unions over a proposal to cut around 280 jobs at its plant in Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire and around 70 in Newport, South Wales.

The company said the move followed a review of its UK business, leading to a decision to reduce its workforce at certain plants to match sustainable production forecasts.

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Cornelius Louwrens, the company's chief executive, said: "Liberty has taken enormous strides in improving the performance of the steel mills it has acquired over the last six years. We've re-started mothballed plants and demonstrated a commitment to invest in the UK.

"Unfortunately, the steel industry in the UK is facing challenging conditions and we have made the difficult decision that there is a need to reduce the workforce at a handful of locations, in order to make them sustainable for the long-term.

"It has always been our intention, and always will be, to avoid compulsory redundancies."

The firm will offer voluntary redundancy to workers at the affected sites, and has set up a new company, GFG Workforce Solutions, to enable employees hit by the cutback, to remain within the GFG Alliance, a group of companies which includes Liberty.

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Ross Murdoch, national officer of the GMB union, said: "Once again we have more bad news for the UK steel industry. A country that doesn't produce its own steel for key infrastructure projects and shipbuilding is a county that's destined to fail.

"Our steelworkers deserve better than this. The Government urgently needs to intervene and ensure steel companies in the UK receive the backing they have long called for on energy costs and business rates.

"GMB will of course engage with the company to mitigate any losses for our members and will continue to campaign with our sister steel trade unions to bring about the support and investment required."

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion added she was "extremely concerned and saddened" by the announcement. "I will be urging Liberty to ensure they support affected employees to find new jobs and opportunities and to give reassurance that their long-term plans for the business still stand," she said.

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"I will also be working with the Council and Government agencies to see that a package of support is in place."She added: "For the last seven years I have repeatedly challenged the Government to address the underlying issues that hold back steel production in the UK; high business rates, high electricity costs, imports of cheap steel and a failure to prioritise British steel in government procurement.

"Unless the government removes these massive obstacles to having a competitive UK steel industry, the future of this vital strategic industry remains bleak.

"It is their duty to protect the steel sector and I have requested an urgent meeting with the Minister to hold them to account on these points."