Tata Steel has announced 270 jobs will go at its Motherwell and Cambuslang plants after the company decided to stop production of steel plate.
It blames a flood of cheap imports, particularly from China, a strong pound and high electricity costs.
Tata says there will also be 900 jobs lost in Scunthorpe as well as a small number at other Long Products Europe sites. The announcement confirmed fears raised last week that job cuts were on the way.
Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, said: “I realise how distressing this news will be for all those affected. We have looked at all other options before proposing these changes.
“We will work closely with affected employees and their trade union representatives. We will look to redeploy employees, wherever possible, and minimise employee hardship.
“The UK steel industry is struggling for survival in the face of extremely challenging market conditions. This industry has a crucial role to play in rebalancing the UK economy, but we need a fairer system to encourage growth. The European Commission needs to do much more to deal with unfairly traded imports – inaction threatens the future of the entire European steel industry.”
Tata says that in the past two years imports of steel plate into Europe have doubled and imports from China have quadrupled, causing steel prices to fall steeply. At the same time, a stronger pound has undermined the competitiveness of the business’s Europe-bound exports and encouraged more imports.
Reaction to the news was swift.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steel union Community, which represents the majority of workers affected, said: “Our immediate thoughts are with the workers and their families. Community representatives will be looking to sit down with the company, to understand the detail and to look at all alternatives that save jobs and uphold our principle of no compulsory redundancies. We will also be putting in place advice and support for our members who are affected.”
Mr Rickhuss said the British Government should ‘hang its head in shame’ at the news.
He added: “The cruel irony of the Prime Minister welcoming the Chinese Premier as UK steel jobs are cut partly due to Chinese steel dumping will not be lost on the UK’s steelworkers and their communities.
“We have been saying for years that more Government action is needed to support UK steel as a vital foundation industry. We have made clear that the situation is urgent. Despite these warnings the Government has been too slow to respond.
“There is also a role for the Scottish Government to ensure that they honour the commitments they gave over the weekend to intervene in the interests of steel making in Scotland.”
Ross Clark, Community’s lead rep at Tata’s Dalzell plant in Motherwell, said: “Everybody’s devastated and worried by today’s news. We’ve faced a lot of challenges in this business and we’ve overcome them, but now our future is uncertain.
“We welcome the fact the Scottish Government is going to set up a taskforce and Community will play a full role in that. The taskforce must deliver on the promises the Scottish Government has made in recent days to save our steel.
“It needs to come up with real practical solutions that protect the workforce, the skills and the assets until we can find an alternative and sustainable future.”
More on this story in the Times & Speaker, out tomorrow (Wednesday).