Tata boss urged to end uncertainty for 2,000 steelworkers

Some of the best quality carbon, alloy and stainless steels are made at Rotherham and Stocksbridge for aerospace, motorsports, industrial engineering and oil and gas.
Some of the best quality carbon, alloy and stainless steels are made at Rotherham and Stocksbridge for aerospace, motorsports, industrial engineering and oil and gas.

Tata boss Bimlendra Jha has been urged to end months of uncertainty over the sale of Rotherham and Stocksbridge plants which has left its 2,000-strong workforce “in limbo.”

An MP and unions are calling for an urgent update into the sale so they can work with a potential new owner.

The speciality business, which is the world’s third-largest manufacturer of steel for the aerospace industry, and counts Airbus, Boeing and Rolls Royce among its customers, was put up for sale as a separate business in July.

A shortlist has been reduced to two main bidders - Albion Steel, a start-up headed by Forgemasters chairman Tony Pedder, against international steel company Liberty House Group.

In a letter to Mr Jha, Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey criticised the lack of “progress” and “communication”, saying the sale appeared to be on “go slow”, with the 2,000-strong workforce left in the dark.

He wrote: “We were told weeks ago that the range of potential purchasers had been reduced to two main bidders, with an indication that the one preferred buyer would be settled shortly after that.

‘Since then there has been silence from Tata, and it looks like your company is dragging its feet. It is for this reason and to help remove the continuing uncertainty that I write to ask that you end this delay, release the relevant details about your preferred bidder so that the unions, the workforce and local South Yorkshire agencies can assess the prospects for a successful sale and work with the potential new owner.”

Senior officials from the trade union Community have spent the past week meeting with members at the steelworks and joined calls for Tata to come clean.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, said: “While so much focus is on the sale of Tata’s Strip business and the uncertainty surrounding the pension scheme, Community will not allow Speciality Steels to become the forgotten part of the steel crisis.

“With over 2,000 direct employees and many thousands more in the local supply chain, this business is of huge importance to the South Yorkshire region.

“When Tata announced that they wanted to sell the business, we called on them to act as a responsible seller. The continued lack of information about that process and the worry this has caused amongst their loyal workforce is highly irresponsible.”

A spokesman for Tata said: “Whenever we have significant news we always seek to tell our employees first. We also communicate regularly with our employees about issues which could affect them including through briefings and newsletters.

“We strive to maintain strong relationships with all our key stakeholders, including local MPs, around our UK sites. We have offered to meet John Healey MP to discuss the points in his letter.

“Discussions have been ongoing with a number of interested parties regarding the sales process of our Speciality Steels business since our announcement in July. Bidders have been given the opportunity to meet with management and conduct site visits, as well as having access to information to assist in performing due diligence.

“The process is ongoing and we will provide a further update at the appropriate point.”