LONDON (Reuters) - Unions have called on the British government to do more to support the country’s steel industry following media reports that some 2000 jobs are directly at risk at SSI UK, the country’s second largest steelmaker.
“While we appreciate the incredibly difficult market conditions faced by all UK steel producers, we believe a lack of support from the UK government in vital areas such as energy, environmental and business taxes and procurement threaten the very future of the UK steel industry,” said a spokesman for the Community union in a statement.
Media reports said the jobs at SSI UK, a unit of Thailand’s Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI), were at risk after the company missed several debt repayments to banks, calling its future into question.
SSI UK declined to comment.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The steel industry is facing difficult global economic conditions but government is working closely with the sector.
“We have provided steelmakers with millions of pounds in compensation for energy costs and recently voted to extend anti-dumping measures on certain Chinese steel products.”
It added that it would continue to talk to companies like SSI and provide support where it can.
Britain’s largest steelmaker, Tata Steel, has already cut thousands of jobs in the UK since its ill-timed entry into the European industry in 2007 when it bought Anglo Dutch producer Corus for $13 billion.
Producing steel profitably in Britain has become increasingly difficult due to cheap imports and a strong currency, plus relatively high energy costs and “green” taxes imposed on heavy industry that are some of the highest in the world.
SSI, Southeast Asia’s largest fully integrated steel sheet producer, bought the Redcar plant in Teeside, northeast England, from Tata Steel for about $500 million in 2011, restarting the mothballed slab plant the following year. It is feared that tens of thousands of jobs in the economically-deprived region could be affected by permanent closure.
“This SSI plant is in a very precarious position as managers are awaiting a main board decision on its future,” GMB union’s national office Dave Hulse said.
Editing by Greg Mahlich