Corus hiring at Yorkshire steel plants that came back from the brink of closure

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Corus is hiring 154 new staff at its two Speciality Steel factories in Yorkshire, barely a year after the Stocksbridge and Rotherham plants faced closure.

The Speciality Steel division – which supplies advanced metals to high-end industries such as aerospace and oil and gas – saw sales plummet by an eye-watering 75 per cent during the worst of the recent recession.

The collapse in orders, exaggerated by savage de-stocking, helped drag Corus's overall sales down by 40 per cent and left the group with monthly losses of more than £100m.

Only a painful restructuring programme, including around 1,000 redundancies, kept the business open.

Now, although the economic recovery in the Corus's major UK and European markets remains fragile, demand is recovering faster in the high-end aerospace and automotive markets, coupled with a greater demand for specialist steels in emerging markets. And the once-tottering Speciality Steel division needs 133 experienced workers, plus another 14 apprentices and seven graduates to help it meet the rising demand.

Corus chief executive Kirby Adams says the decision to keep Stocksbridge and Rotherham open was helped by his previous experience in the titanium industry, which sells into the same advanced markets and also uses the same vacuum arc re-melt process as the Yorkshire steel plants.

"When people were suggesting the business should be mothballed I took a contrarian view that this is the kind of fantastic, high-tech manufacturing capability we really need more of ," Mr Adams said. "Having given licence to the management and the employees, they more than held up their side of the bargain – this success is all theirs."

Mr Adams has faced sharp criticism for the company's mothballing of the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant in February, at a cost of around 1,000 jobs. But he is keen to stress both that the closure was unavoidable, following the collapse of an off-take agreement with an international consortium of buyers, and that the company is still "hard at it" trying to find a buyer so the plant can be re-opened.

"It has always been the objective that Teesside would be re-started and we will again be making steel there," he said.

Notwithstanding the termination of talks with a local consortium earlier this month, Mr Adams says there are ongoing talks at an "advanced" stage with "a handful" of companies.

"We are actively engaged in a number of conversations and I am very hopeful we will have some good news," he said. "We have had a number of visits to the facility from interested parties and at this point it is down to whether there is sufficient interest on their part to proceed to be a part of Teesside's future."