British Steel could be on the brink of cutting up to 1,200 jobs at its steelworks in Scunthorpe.
Unite union representatives were told by executives of the Chinese-owned company that coke ovens and various other operations at the plant could face closure. Unite said up to 1,200 jobs were at risk.
Jingye, which owns British Steel, runs two of the four remaining blast furnaces in the UK at Scunthorpe and is in talks with the government over support for upgrading them so they emit less carbon. The company employs around 4,500 workers in the UK.
Indian-owned Tata Steel owns the other two furnaces, at Port Talbot in South Wales, and is also holding discussions with the government over financial support for upgrades.
The UK government has so far offered both companies support worth £300m apiece.
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There is no formal consultation under way on British Steel’s job losses, and the company did not outline a timeline in the meeting on Wednesday, it has been reported.
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said there had been a loss of leadership in the sector. She said: “This proposal is down to a greedy employer and a shambolic government. Unite completely rejects the plans of British Steel’s multibillion-pound Chinese owners to cut over 1,000 jobs at its plant in Scunthorpe.
“Steelworkers are suffering from a catastrophic failure in leadership from both the Jingye Group, who own British Steel, and by the government.”
The principal union for steelworkers is Community. Its national officer, Alun Davies, said job losses would represent a betrayal of British Steel’s commitment to invest in the business. He added: “British Steel is already putting staff at risk by making them work overtime every single week. Cutting hundreds of jobs in this situation will endanger workers by pushing them to work even longer hours in extreme temperatures.”
Jingye had previously pledged to invest £1.2bn in the Scunthorpe plant by the end of the decade having taken over British Steel in 2020 from the government, which had been forced to nationalise the firm in order to keep it running.
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