Friday, 8 Dec 2023

Huge blow for UK town as British Steel plans to axe 2,000 jobs

British Steel has announced plans to close down blast furnaces at one of its northern plants, placing up to 2,000 regional jobs at risk.

The firm’s initiative to shutter the two blast furnaces and replace them with electric arc equivalents in Scunthorpe and Teesside will cost approximately £1.25 billion.

And it would turn British Steel into a “clean, green and sustainable business” as it strives to meet environmental commitments.

But unions have estimated the shift would cost the company between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs.

The vast majority of those, they have estimated, will come from Scunthorpe, a notably deprived town in Northern Lincolnshire.

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British Steel is owned by Chinese firm Jingye Group, whose chief executive, Xijun Cao, said it could not operate the furnaces and meet environmental commitments.

He said: “We have engaged extensively with the public and private sector to understand the feasibility of producing net zero steel with our current blast furnace operations. However, thorough analysis shows this is not viable.”

The new furnaces, Mr Cao said, could be in operation by late 2025, but that its plans would need approval from the UK Government.

Union representatives have described the plans as “dangerous and foolhardy”, however, as Tata Steel announces similar plans.

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Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community, a specialist trade union that represents UK steelworkers, said the combined hit from both firms would leave the country “unable to make steel from raw materials”.

He said: “The plans that British Steel has announced, combined with Tata Steel’s plans, would leave the UK unable to make steel from raw materials and dangerously exposed to international markets.”

Tata, a larger competitor firm, has announced similar plans to close two blast furnaces in Port Talbot, a steel-producing town on Wales’ south coast.

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The latter company’s decision to close the furnaces could cost nearly double the number of jobs than the British Steel move, with up to 3,000 on the line.

Tata has already received a firm commitment from the Government and will receive £500 million from officials.

Unions have threatened industrial action following the news, with Paul Nowak, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, stating: “Workers won’t stand back and watch as Britain’s steel industry is dismantled in real-time.”

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