UP to 500 jobs will be axed at British Steel with the trade unions agreeing to the axing.
The union leaders have warned the takeover could involve cutting around 10% of the company’s workforce and major changes in work practices.
Nevertheless, they have backed the deal with Chinese company Jingye, which they say will secure the future of British Steel.
If the sale does not go ahead, British Steel would be broken up and sold in parts, the three major steel unions said. They did not consider a campaign for the nationalisation of British Steel.
‘With British Steel in liquidation it is clear that if the business is to survive change is required,’ the union leaders said in a joint statement.
The unions’ comments came after they reached an agreement with Jingye over employee pay, terms and conditions.
The trade unions’ Steel Committee has been meeting with Jingye representatives to discuss their business plan and in particular their proposals relating to employment.
‘As British Steel is in liquidation any new owner could just offer new contracts with statutory minimum terms and conditions. There is no legal obligation to do more, nor to consult on any changes,’ the trade unions pointed out.
Yesterday, senior union reps from across the business unanimously endorsed the package in principle as part of the overall business and investment plan. Full details of Jingye’s proposals are now being drawn up.
As was widely expected, Jingye intends to reduce overall ‘headcount’. This will be up to 500 jobs, and will be subject to ongoing detailed discussion at departmental level.
Ross Murdoch, National Officer for GMB, said: ‘In endorsing this package in principle, the trade unions believe they have struck the right balance between delivering cost savings and maintaining jobs with decent terms and conditions to drive the new business forward.’
Alasdair McDiarmid, Operations Director for Community, said: ‘Faced with challenging circumstances we believe that the dialogue between Jingye and the unions has produced a better deal for employees than what was otherwise on the table.’
Harish Patel, National Officer for Unite, said: ‘Everyone wants to see British Steel survive and thrive. Crucial to that will be Jingye delivering on their ambitious investment plans. If employees are making sacrifices, then they need to see that this is done in return for investment that can make the business successful and secure jobs for the long-term.’