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Conditions 'deteriorating'

Cameron to hold crunch talks on future of steelworkers’ jobs

Tata SteelPrime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting of ministers on Thursday to consider what to do about the threatened UK steel industry.

Tata, the Indian company, left thousands of steelworkers facing a bleak future after putting its remaining plants up for sale.

In an uncompromising statement, issued just before midnight on Tuesday, it said the “deteriorating financial performance” of the UK business in the last year, caused by oversupply and cheap imports, meant it could no longer afford to invest in the business which is losing £1m a day.

Tata said it will look at selling assets, “in whole or in parts”. The existing conditions “are likely to continue into the future” it said, adding that it had pumped more than £2 billion into the plants in the last five years.

The future of the Port Talbot works in South Wales is the most sensitive issue and the government is under pressure to take it into state control.

However, later today Business Secretary Sajid Javid said nationalisation is not the answer. He is cutting short a trip to Australia and said he is looking at some kind of government support, though he believes a better long term solution is required to nationalisation.

However, his views seemed at odds with Anna Soubry, a business minister, who seemed to think government could intervene.

A Labour Party call for Parliament to be recalled early has been rejected, but the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of ministers on Thursday (31st).

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “deeply concerned”.

He said: “Ministers must act now to protect the steel industry and the core of manufacturing in Britain.”

Dave Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: “This is absolutely devastating news for all our members, their families and the local communities. Tata has let the whole of the UK steel industry down.”

Tata’s statement, in full, is below:

“Mumbai, March 29, 2016: The Tata Steel Board today reviewed the recent performance of the European business of the Company, more specifically, of Tata Steel UK. It noted with deep concern the deteriorating financial performance of the UK subsidiary in the last twelve months.

“While the global steel demand, especially in developed markets like Europe has remained muted following the financial crisis of 2008, trading conditions in the UK and Europe have rapidly deteriorated more recently, due to structural factors including global oversupply of steel, significant increase in third country exports into Europe, high manufacturing costs, continued weakness in domestic market demand in steel and a volatile currency.

“These factors are likely to continue into the future and have significantly impacted the long term competitive position of the UK operations in spite of several initiatives undertaken by the management and the workers of the business in recent years. Even under these adverse market conditions, the Tata Steel Group has extended substantial financial support to the UK business and suffered asset impairment of more than £ 2 billion in the last 5 years.

“The Tata Steel Board also reviewed the proposed restructuring and transformation plan for Strip Products UK, prepared by the European subsidiary in consultation with an independent and internationally reputed consultancy firm.

“Based on the review conducted, the Tata Steel Board came to a unanimous conclusion that the Plan is unaffordable, requires material funding support in the next two years in addition to significant capital commitments over the long term, the assumptions behind it are inherently very risky, and its likelihood of delivery is highly uncertain.

“Therefore, the Board concluded that it would not be able to support the investment necessary to proceed with the proposed Strip Products UK Transformation plan.

“The company has also been in deep engagement with the UK Government in recent months seeking its support to achieve the best possible outcome for the UK business, within the restrictions of State Aid Rules and other statutory limits. These discussions are ongoing and will continue. Discussions will also continue with Greybull in relation to a sale of the UK Long Products business. The UK Government is also involved in the latter discussions.

“Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the Board of its European holding company i.e. Tata Steel Europe, to explore all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts.

“Given the severity of the funding requirement in the foreseeable future, the Tata Steel Europe Board will be advised to evaluate and implement the most feasible option in a time bound manner.”

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