Unions said the Tata losses totalling 900 nationwide rounded off a week of “jobs carnage”, which included another 60 posts being axed at the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive due to public spending cuts.
Sites affected by the Tata announcement include the Brinsworth metal centre in Rotherham, which will close with the loss of 110 jobs. Another 16 posts will go at Stocksbridge, near Sheffield, with 41 jobs being lost at a distribution centre which will be closed in Wortley, Leeds, although 11 jobs will be created at a distribution hub in Rotherham.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband, who was in Rotherham ahead of Thursday’s by-election, said: “It’s a bad blow and it’s a bad blow which I think reflects the overall state of the economy.
“What we also need is a Government that will run the economy differently so companies like Tata aren’t laying people off.”
Indian-owned Tata plans to close 12 sites altogether under plans to improve competitiveness amid a slump in demand across Europe. Most of the job losses will be in South Wales, including 500 at its Port Talbot plant, with further cuts at sites in Redcar, Hartlepool and the West Midlands.
The losses in Rotherham come due to lower demand for bar products.
The firm said the business would be restructured to focus on supplying hi-tech products to advanced manufacturing sectors with investment of £2.75m.
Mark Broxholme, managing director of Tata’s speciality steels and bar business, which employs more than 1,000 in Rotherham, said: “These proposed changes are a critical part of developing a sustainable and competitive bar business. We are investing in improvements to our steelmaking in Rotherham as well as to the final quality of our products.”
Tata said demand for steel in Europe had fallen by 25 per cent since 2007 and was forecast to slump by another 10 per cent this year, with construction among the industries cutting back.
Unions described it as “devastating” news ahead of Christmas.
Michael Leahy, general secretary of the Community trade union, said: “Sadly, these potential job losses are symptomatic of the continuing failure of the Government’s economic policy and yet another reason why we are calling on the British government to take urgent action to stimulate economic growth and help revive the manufacturing sector.”
Unite claimed a series of announcements in the last week have put 20,000 jobs at risk, warning the country was on the brink of a “triple-dip” recession.
General secretary Len McCluskey said: “Tens of thousands of people will be facing a Christmas of uncertainty thanks to the jobs carnage wrought by this Government’s bungling handling of the economy.”
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) says the cuts affecting 16 per cent of its workforce would bring the total jobs lost since last year to 100.
Its director general, David Brown, said: “We are all aware that the country’s economic difficulties are continuing and all public sector organisations are subsequently facing budget cuts.
“Every effort will be made to minimise the impact on the customer, and SYPTE will continue to identify, develop and deliver key strategic priorities for the whole of the Sheffield City Region.”