One hundred Community, GMB and Unite trade union representatives from Anglo-Dutch steelmaker, Corus, were meeting in London yesterday to discuss company demands for a ten per cent wage cut.
The steelmaker’s Indian owner Tata, in the face of falling orders, plans to cut Corus’ European production by 30 per cent and cut costs by £350 million.
It is calling for a six-month temporary wage cut of ten per cent for its 25,000 workforce.
Jimmy Skivington, GMB Organiser said before yesterday’s meeting: ‘GMB members working at Corus have not agreed to any pay cuts.
‘We will continue with the talks with the company in the hope that together we can find a solution to the current difficulties which are reflected throughout industry.
‘A meeting in London today with over a hundred union delegates, representing the Corus workforce, will move the discussion forward.’
Corus UK has approached the government seeking training and payroll support to prevent mass redundancies due to the economic situation.
A spokesman for Community, the main steelworkers’ union, denied it was willing to accept pay cuts.
Community Union General Secretary Michael J Leahy said: ‘Any proposals which have come forward have done so as a consequence of proposals that have been put by the company.
‘They’ve put a number of proposals including a general pay cut.
‘They’ve not even suggested this is an alternative to reductions in the workforce or closures, but we know however if the order book stays as it is for a long period of time, then we know structural changes may need to take place in Corus.’
Leahy added: ‘We’ve been discussing a range of possible arrangements to ensure we have a sustainable industry going ahead and protect the interests of our members – they have mortgages and commitments.
‘We didn’t want a dramatic impact on their jobs or ability to earn as a consequence of this crisis.’
Unite said it had ‘no comment’.
GMB organiser Skivington said after the London meeting: ‘We’re looking to see what can be done to save the steel industry, what Corus is proposing.
‘The ten per cent cut was debated. The media reports are absolute nonsense.
‘It’s not about ten per cent, shift patterns or bonuses but how we find a way forward.
‘We need to protect our members’ interests.
‘There will be more meetings next week.’
Earlier, the Financial Times had reported on its front page ‘Corus unions offer pay cut’, in the hope that a cut of ten per cent for six months will be enough to prevent the closure of the Llanwern plant in Newport, south Wales, which employs over 1,000 workers, but many are saying that this is doubtful.
The Financial Times noted that the GMB had agreed a pay cut at construction firm JCB, ‘a deal ministers believe could be copied widely’.
Corus also has plants at Port Talbot, Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire and Rotherham in South Yorkshire.
Earlier this week, chief executive Philippe Varin appealed to the government to provide 70 per cent of the finance for thousands of temporary lay offs, rather than making redundancies.
In the past month, 500 Corus jobs have been axed in the UK.
• The pound sterling continued its slide against the euro yesterday, reaching a new record low of 1.1238 euros.
This is the lowest level since the euro was launched in 1999.
Against the US dollar, the pound gained just one cent, reaching $1.4924 in afternoon trading.
The pound was pushed lower after figures from the Confederation of British Industry confirmed a sharp downward trend in manufacturing.