MPs on the North East Select Committee have today published the findings of their inquiry into the job losses at Teesside Cast Products. The MPs are warning Corus that it must act responsibly towards the people of Redcar and the North East region to minimise the impact of job losses on the community and is urging the company to re-open the plant as soon as steel prices bounce back.
Now that the plant has been mothballed, the Committee are seeking an absolute guarantee from Corus that a sufficient number of skilled staff will be maintained on site to enable a return to production as soon as market conditions permit. Mothballing must be real and viable, and that has to mean keeping not just the plant, but the highly skilled work force, ready to restart production at short notice when market conditions change.
Dari Taylor MP, Chair of the Committee said:
“All eyes are on Corus now. The Company must act responsibly and do the right thing by all of the communities that have supported it all these years.
“The downturn in steel prices may well be temporary and if Corus’ intention is to mothball the plant, rather than close it , then it must maintain enough highly skilled jobs in the area to re-open the plant when conditions change.”
“It seems spectacularly short-sighted to end steel production on Teesside when firms here are starting production on massive new offshore wind turbines-as big as the Eiffel Tower-which will require huge amounts of steel.”
The report points to the economic opportunities being created in the North East by the low-carbon industrial revolution as evidence that steel production will be required in the region in the future. The manufacture of huge new offshore wind turbines and facilities for capturing and storing the carbon produced when burning fossil fuels will need substantial quantities of good-quality steel. It seems short term and counterproductive to remove a local steel producer from the area just as these industries are developing. The Committee is calling on Ministers to choose the Tees Valley as one of the areas to pilot carbon capture and storage projects later this year.
The Committee also warns the company that it has a duty to act responsibly to the communities of Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough, which have served it for many years. In particular the MPs want to see any profits that Tata make from selling Carbon Emissions Trading Allowances ploughed back into supporting the workforce and the regional economy. The MPs are also keen to see Tata release land for redevelopment quickly if attempts to re-open the plant fail.
The MPs also criticise the firm’s short-sighted decision to close its rolling mill in Redcar and Lackenby in 2002 which has left it unable to respond flexibly to changes in the world steel market in a way that would guarantee continued production on Teesside. The report calls on Tata Corus and the unions to explore whether slab could continue to be produced at TCP and then rolled at the company’s mill in Llanwern, South Wales which is running below capacity. The market remains significantly larger for hot and cold rolled steel products than for slab, so this could potentially provide a profitable alternative to closure.
The MPs are disappointed that the Government and Corus have ruled out the possibility of using a wage subsidy to keep the plant open while we wait for prices to return to normal. The Committee is calling on the Government to keep an open mind on this should a future operator for the plant emerge. The Committee is calling on GONE and ONE to find out as a matter of urgency whether European Globalisation Adjustment Funding would be available to assist those who might be made redundant at TCP. If such funding is available, the Committee recommend that they do not give the matter “the fullest consideration” but apply immediately.