COMMUNITY steel union representatives are meeting at the TUC today with the threat of closure hanging over the industry in the UK, with tens of thousands of jobs at stake after Tata said it was selling its UK plants.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said yesterday the government’s plan to save the plant and find a long-term solution for the steel industry was to find a commercial buyer for all of Tata’s UK business.
He told the Andrew Marr Show that any buyer would want to look at ‘plant, pensions and power supply’, which ministers were ‘working on’. He suggested ‘more can be done’ on the cost of electricity at the plant and regarding a pension scheme to attract potential investors – but he would not be drawn on the details.
Labour Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said nationalisation should be considered until a buyer is found. A ‘Buy British’ order to the public sector to help the beleaguered UK steel industry is to be issued by the government.
The ‘Buy British’ plan has been welcomed by Labour and the steel unions, although they state much more action is needed from the government. Under the new proposal, public sector bodies, including the NHS and councils, will be required to consider the social and economic impact on the UK before buying steel from abroad.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community trade union, said the announcement was ‘a small step in the right direction’ but said steelworkers ‘will be shocked to discover that these measures were not already in place’.
Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said the measure needed to compel British steel to be used in all infrastructure projects ‘otherwise, there will be no recognisable steel industry left in the UK to benefit’.
The government move came as a possible buyer emerged for the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales, where thousands of jobs are at stake. Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, founder of the commodities firm Liberty House, said he had already opened discussions with Tata Steel and was ready to hold talks with the government.
However he cautioned: ‘I haven’t made a proposition that I want to buy all of (Tata Steel UK) because that’s too big an undertaking to even put on the table at this stage.
‘If the company, its people, its workers and the government would be willing to consider my suggestions then I’m willing to engage in a discussion about what role we will play in that.’
Tata meanwhile has been in discussions with German steel giant ThyssenKrupp. But ThyssenKrupp dropped its bid over concerns about the losses of the UK business and its pension liabilities of almost £15bn.
It is crystal clear that only permanent nationalisation can save Tata Steel jobs, as part of a socialist planned economy. Tata workers must occupy the steel plants to defend their jobs, and demand that the TUC calls a general strike to support them by bringing down the Tory government and bringing in a workers government.