Steel summit overshadowed by threat of new job losses

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TATA STEEL Europe chief executive Karl-Ulrich Köhler warned the industry faces a “very serious situation” amid reports that his company will cut more than 1,000 staff on Tuesday including at its Scunthorpe plant.

Dr Kohler refused to confirm the job losses as he left a steel summit of industry leaders, union representatives, MPs and Ministers in Rotherham called in the wake of the decision to close the SSI steelworks in Redcar.

The reports of the impending job losses emerged as the summit at the Advanced Manufacturing Park came to an end.

Dr Kohler said the strong British pound and an “unpredecented volume” of Chinese steel imports had combined to produce a “huge headache” for the industry.

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, who was also at the summit, said;: “Of course if [the report] proves to be correct that is another terrible blow for the UK steel industry and a terrible blow for the community I am privileged to represent.”

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the Community union, said: “We have had no indication officially from Tata. There are representatives of Tata here today, we’ve challenged them on this speculation and all they’ve said to us is no comment at this stage.

“If it is true I think it is awful, another sad tragedy in terms of another nail in the coffin of the steel industry.”

Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who chaired the steel summit, insisted the prospect of further job losses at Tata Steel was not discussed.

He insisted there were measures the Government could take to help the British steel industry but stopped short of announcing new measures.

Mr Javid said: “We are going to carry on doing everything we can do to help workers as we have already seen and if more is required of course we will do that.

“There’s lots of families that have been affected by this and we don’t want to see that continue.”

The Business Secretary said a series of working groups chaired by Ministers with representatives of trade unions and the industry to consider next steps.

“I think everyone agrees that there is no magic bullet about the challenges that face this industry,” he said.

Mr Javid said some of the actions that could be taken, such as on energy costs, would require EU approval and the working groups would help prepare the evidence needed.

The summit at the Advanced Manufacturing Park was held the day after the final shifts clocked on at the closing steelworks in Redcar where 2,000 jobs are being lost.

Gareth Stace, Director of UK Steel, said: “We asked Government to sit down and listen to the needs of the steel industry and take decisive action to support us. They have listened and promised to take action.

“The Secretary of State has committed to support the compensation package for energy intensive industries such as steel, and to ensure that state aid approval is secured as soon as possible.”