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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Workers reeling from 90 job losses proposed by Tata Steel

Workers were today in shock following the announcement that 90 jobs – almost a third of the current workforce – could go at Tata Steel’s Workington plant.

Tata Steel Workington photo
Tata Steel in Workington

It is part of restructuring proposals within the company which aims to help strengthen competitiveness.

A total of 500 job losses are proposed at three sites across the UK. As well as those in Cumbria, about 340 workers could be affected in Scunthorpe and 40 on Teesside.

It is understood that most of the redundancies will be within management and administrative roles. A company spokesman yesterday confirmed that there were currently no plans to close any its UK plants.

The company has said that the latest proposals come amid a prolonged downturn in demand, with the UK market for construction steel currently about half of 2007 levels.

Councillor Alan Smith, a former steel worker who is now the leader of Allerdale council, said he was “gutted” when he heard the news, having gone through the same process himself a few years earlier.

He said: “Having received that envelope seven years ago you feel you are chucked onto the scrap heap. And 90 out of 300 is a big loss. It’s really bad news. They are at the beginning of a 90-day consultation – that is going to take us right through Christmas.”

Mr Smith added: “There are 90 families in west Cumbria who are going to feel hardship when those jobs go.

“There are 500 job losses being announced in the country – 19 per cent are going from west Cumbria where we can ill-afford to lose jobs.”

Tony Cunningham, Workington’s MP, said he was “shocked and stunned” by the scale of the redundancies and added: “This is by no means the end of the story – we will fight to minimise the job losses.”

Leaders from the GMB union, which represents affected workers, are due to talk to Tata bosses in London tomorrow.

David Hulse, the union’s national officer, said the terrible news had come straight out of the blue and was a shock.

He added: “GMB is bitterly disappointed as earlier this year we saw 1,000 people leave the company and everyone involved has worked hard to make all-round improvements.

“GMB will insist on no compulsory redundancies and to bring the number of job losses right down.”

Michael Leahy, the chairman of the UK Steel Unions’ Committee, said: “We are obviously very concerned to hear this news and are doing all we can to support those affected by the announcement.

“We recognise the business has been dealing with a downturn in some of its markets for the past five years.

“Nevertheless, today’s news once again reflects the fragile state of our economy and the lack of any real impetus by Government to support our manufacturing base.”

Karl Koehler, CEO of Tata’s European operations, said: “European steel demand this year is expected to be only two-thirds of pre-crisis levels after falls in the past two years.

“On top of the challenging economic conditions, rules covering energy and the environment in Europe and the UK threaten to impose huge additional costs on the steel industry.”

He said that they would engage fully with employees and unions during the restructuring process and would support employees throughout.

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