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British Steel workers deserve a future

IndustriALL’s affiliates, Unite, GMB and Community are calling on the UK government to find a solution that secures jobs and guarantees the long term future of British Steel as the company faces receivership. The company employs 5,000 people directly, and supports a further 20,000 jobs.

British Steel borrowed £120 million from the UK government in April, and requested a further loan of £75 million two weeks later to avoid going into administration. The troubled company was bought from Tata Steel in 2016 for £1 by private equity firm Greybull Capital. Greybull has been criticized by unions for a history of profiting from the collapse of successful businesses, including Monarch and Comet.

Unions have urged the government to find a solution for British Steel, including taking the company into public control if necessary. The government has subsequently agreed to underwrite British Steel’s receivership, meaning suppliers and wages will be paid until a buyer is found.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said,

“British Steel workers are top class and have battled through adversity and uncertainty. Any new owner will be lucky and privileged to have them as their employees. It is vital that any buyer acquires the whole of the company and that it isn’t sold off piecemeal to disaster capitalists wanting to make a quick buck.”

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said:

“Ministers should have been ready to make use of all the options – including nationalization – in order to save British Steel but they either don’t care or wouldn’t take off their ideological blinkers to save hard working people and communities.”

Roy Rickhuss, Community general secretary, said:

“It is clear that future should not involve Greybull. Greybull needs to do the right thing by getting out of the road and let those who are committed to our industry work together to save the business.

“While the coke ovens keep burning and the steel assets remain there continues to be hope both for steelmaking at Scunthorpe and for its downstream operations. What is needed is the right ownership.”

In letters to the affiliates, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches expressed solidarity with the steel workers and said:

“British Steel is a troubled company that has been failed by successive governments and preyed on by financial speculators, with Greybull being the most recent. The worsening situation is the consequence of years of neglect, and has been compounded by the failure of the government to develop an industrial strategy for the steel industry. Therefore, it is imperative that all parties find an appropriate solution that takes full account of the importance of the steel industry, and the legitimate demands of workers.”

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