The business secretary will visit the Corus plant in Teesside today in a bid to protect 1,600 jobs that could be lost if the company continues with plans to mothball the site tomorrow.
Peter Mandelson hopes his visit to the plant will encourage Corus management to consider selling the steelworks. Meanwhile, business minister Pat McFadden will hold talks in India with Tata, which owns Corus, the Times reported.
Union leaders were optimistic that an 11th-hour deal could be reached, and Unite claimed at least one serious buyer was prepared to take over the plant and carry on producing slab steel there.
Terry Pye, Unite’s national officer for the steel industry, said: “We are aware that serious offers have been made to Corus that would allow production to remain at the plant, but the management has dismissed them all out of hand.
“Unite believe the mothballing of Corus’s Teesside site is a disgraceful charade. The union has reason to suspect that Corus never had any intention of selling this plant and they intend to close the site, which will have a devastating effect on the community, which has a 150-year heritage of iron and steel-making.”
The plan to mothball the plant was confirmed last week, when Tata blamed the “illegal” withdrawal of business by a group of four companies that accounted for 80% of the plant’s sales.
Unite also raised the possibility of strike action against Corus. Pye said: “We will be calling on our members at the other Corus sites to take strategic action to force the company to take heed to the offers it is receiving to save the plant.”
Corus said: “We cannot comment on specific merger and acquisition issues. We have always maintained that there is a possibility that steel-making could resume if a buyer were found.”