Glimmer of hope for future of Clydebridge
Workers at Cambuslang’s Clydebridge steelworks have welcomed the news that the plant’s owners will consider other options over its future.
It was revealed in October that Clydebridge was on the verge of being sold by Tata Steel to the Klesch Group, leading to fears over the future of the Cambuslang plant.
But billionaire owner Gary Klesch’s operation was accused in Parliament of “asset-stripping” by Rutherglen MP Tom Greatrex. He pointed to two aluminium smelters the Klesch Group acquired in Holland and Germany, which subsequently went bankrupt amid huge political rows about subsidies and money channelled to a tax haven.
However, after appeals in Parliament and through a number of meetings, it has been revealed that Tata Steel is open to alternative plans.
Tata Steel chairman Cyrus Mistry and European chief executive Karl Koehler met with members of the UK National Trade Union Steel coordinating committee, which is made up of Community, Unite and GMB, together with the chair of Tata Steel’s European Works Council.
In a joint statement, they said: “Based on mutual respect, we have had a constructive meeting today where we agreed a way forward that will ensure that there is full and meaningful consultation between Tata Steel and the trade unions and works councils in Europe over the potential sale of the Long Products Europe business.
“Tata Steel will give serious consideration before a potential sale to alternatives put forward by the trade unions and their consultants in the interest of its employees. The company also confirmed it would act as a responsible seller taking into account Assurances Business Secretary Vince Cable the interests of all stakeholders.
“We agreed that the consultation process should be concluded before a sale is completed.
“We understand that this is a period of uncertainty for the workforce at Long Products Europe, but this time is necessary to enable the completion of both the due diligence and consultation processes.”
Tom Greatrex MP has asked the government’s Business Secretary Vince Cable to look into the matter, and also raised his concerns with Prime Minister David Cameron.
In Parliament, Tom said: “I thank the Secretary of State for his engagement with the all-party group for the steel and metal related industry. Its members are from across the whole of the UK and they are concerned about the Tata Steel situation.
“May I implore him again— this was raised earlier—to ensure that his department’s engagement with the Klesch group is predicated on trying to secure as many of those jobs as possible for the long term? People in the steel industry in my constituency and across the UK are very concerned, given the Klesch group’s record in other parts of Europe.”
Mr Cable replied: “I can give the Honorable Gentleman exactly that assurance. We should listen to what he has to say. Of course, we are concerned that the British steel industry should succeed.”
Speaking to the Reformer, Tom said: “I raised this matter again in Parliament with Vince Cable, as Secretary of State
Tom Greatrex MP for Business.
“Last Monday, we had a meeting between myself and other steel area MPs, and the Community union.
“One of the things we are pressing Tata to do is to look at other options, so the joint statement was quite welcome, indicating a shift from Tata Steel who had previously indicated there was only one option, and now, they are looking at alternatives.
“The union can make a strong case for either Tata retaining the long products division, or consider the option of selling to another business.
“There are a lot of concerns about selling to Klesch as there are worries about asset stripping and venture capitalism, which could lead to the end of the steel industry in this country.
“What’s welcome from the statement is Tata Steel have a more open mind than they did after the previous meeting a few weeks ago.
“The workforce has been extremely loyal over the years, after Tata took over from Corus, and everything the workers have been asked to do, they have done, while still meeting very high standards.
“Management are recognising there’s a determination amongst the current workforce, supported by their union, and a number of us in Parliament.
“What appeared to be a pretty poor only option is now a last restort, which is good news.
“The EU is announcing new infrastructure opportunities, and there’s a great chance here for Clydebridge and Dalzell to capitalise on those - you don’t want to miss out on a chance like that, rather than making a short-term decision.”
Worries Clydebridge’s future is perhaps slightly less uncertain this week