400 jobs at risk as steel firm enters administration


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The Independent Online

A steel firm which employs 400 workers has gone into administration in a “devastating” blow to the industry, union leaders said today.

The Community union said it had been told the grim news about the Thamesteel plant in Sheerness, Kent, one of the area's main employers.

The move followed an earlier announcement by steel giant Tata of 110 job losses at its plant in Corby, Northamptonshire, under a "recovery plan".

Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community, said: "This is devastating news for everybody who works at Thamesteel and for the wider community in Sheerness.

"Community believes that Sheerness steelmaking can have a future and we will be doing all we can to save our steel in the coming weeks and months. We will also ensure that our members' rights are upheld at this difficult time.

"Once the administrators are appointed, we are willing to work with them to deepen and widen the search for an investor and we want to work with anybody who wants to give Thamesteel a future.

"Any investor who did come forward would find a proud and committed workforce dedicated to continuing production at the UK's first mini-mill."

The steelworks was acquired by the Saudi-based Al-Tuwairqi Group in 2002.

Workers were given the news today and told that more information will be given to them at a meeting tomorrow.

Tata's cuts will hit the Corby site, part of the firm's Tubes business, which is also cutting almost 100 jobs at three other factories in Europe.

Tata said the move was aimed at matching business operations to market demand and focused on efficiency improvements and cost reductions in response to weak economic conditions.

Remco Blaauw, managing director of Tata Steel's European Tube business, said: "Our announcement today follows a detailed review of all our European tubes activities.

"In response to the prolonged downturn in all European markets for tubes, and in the context of intense competition, the measures announced today are designed to bring these sites into a sustainable financial position.

"Our priority is to minimise the impact on our employees, and to assist affected colleagues through a difficult process.

"Our goal is to secure a sustainable tubes business which will not only weather the current economic storm, but can prosper in the future."

Mr Leahy said: "This is a massive blow for the workforce in Corby who have done everything expected of them to keep the site viable.

"The impact on the local community and families will be particularly hard.

"We are arranging an urgent meeting with Tata Steel Tubes to demand assurances there will be no compulsory redundancies and to explore all other options available.

"We also want a clear commitment from Tata Steel to the long-term security of the site at Corby."