The hard work and sacrifices of Tata Steel’s long products workers were lauded (June 1 2016), during a handover ceremony in Scunthorpe to the devision’s new owners, Greybull Capital.
Greybull, who bought Tata long product sites in Teeside, Workington, York and Scunthorpe for £1 after employees agreed to a rescue package that saw a 3 percent pay cut, an end to bonuses and the closure of the pension scheme, have renamed the business British Steel.
Greybull partner Marc Meyohas thanked the 4,800 steelworkers for their efforts in bringing the deal to completion and announced that the Scunthorpe plant is already turning a profit. Speaking at the ceremony, Meyohas said, “We have a very credible business plan in place and Scunthorpe has been in profit for the past couple of months and we expect it to trade profitably for the rest of the year.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey also attended the event, which saw British Steel flags raised above the site, and said the sale was a “confident” sign for the rest of Britain’s steel industry.
“The workforce are the most important people and they’re the ones who achieved this, they’re the ones who made sacrifices. Our shop stewards have done a wonderful job and given leadership, but it’s our members who have moved forward in a positive manner. It’s a new dawn for Scunthorpe and Teeside and the surrounding areas,” said McCluskey.
“It clearly sends out a message for the rest of the steel industry that there’s a element of confidence in the air. We’ll continue to press the government to make certain the rest of the steel industry is protected and that the warm words we’re hearing at the moment are turned into action.”
McCluskey also reminded Tata Steel of its responsibilities to around 10,000 other staff across the UK, who are still in the dark about their futures.
He said, “Tata Steel owes it to its workforce to continue to be a responsible seller by selling its remaining assets, as one entity, to a buyer which is committed to steelmaking in the long-term.”
Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel called the sale a ‘new chapter’ for Britain’s steel industry, but warned that the factors that caused Tata to pull out of its UK operations had still not been resolved.
Patel said, “The pressure on the government needs to continue. We’re still going to get steel dumping in the UK and if they don’t do anything about the energy prices and business rates then the issue is going to come back to us in a couple of years time. Unite will continue to ensure the government delivers on the asks the industry needs and make sure we have a thriving steel industry.”
For the people of Scunthorpe, which was built around the production of steel, the sale means that the town’s economic lifeblood will continue to flow. The fact was highlighted during the ceremony, as the steel plant’s longest serving employee, Chris Allison – who has 45 years of service under his belt – raised the new British Steel flag, along with 16-year-old apprentice and third generation steelworker Ben Manoury.
“It’s not like the chicken and the egg. It’s steel that came first and Scunthorpe that came after. So we’ve not only secured the jobs for the people that’s on this site, we also secured a future for the town. As trade union officials we can pat ourselves on the back, but the fact is that it’s the members who have done it,” said Unite’s Scunthorpe convenor Martin Foster, himself the son and grandson of steelworkers.
“It hasn’t been easy for them – they’ve taken a lot of cuts on the chin. It’s going to be a difficult 12 months for our members but they will be working hard to make sure British Steel has a bright future with the expectation that they will share in its future success.”
Text (c) Ryan Fletcher