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LEADERS in the labour movement are urging the government to nationalise British Steel, as steelworkers ask: “if a bailout is good enough for bankers, why isn’t it good enough for us?”
Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey told the Tories to intervene after the company’s compulsory liquidation was announced this morning.
She added: “The Tories’ legacy will once again be industrial decline — whilst they endlessly squabble over the European Union.
“The government must act quickly to save this strategically important industry, and the livelihoods and communities of those who work in it, by bringing British Steel into public ownership.’’
During Prime Minister’s Questions today, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government has “failed” the 5,000 people employed by British Steel in Scunthorpe and Teeside, and 20,000 others throughout its supply chain.
“They must step in and save those jobs,” he added.
Former Scunthorpe steelworker Charlotte Childs told the Star that it’s a “disgrace” that people are facing serious job uncertainty.
“Unemployment in North Lincolnshire at the moment is nearly 5 per cent. If the steelworks close that would be more like 8.4 per cent, and double the national average,” she added.
“Why is so little being done to help people? If a bailout is good enough for bankers, why isn’t it good enough for steelworkers?”
GMB general secretary Tim Roache called the news “devastating,” and scorned the Tories for being unwilling to take off their “ideological blinkers” to step in and nationalise the industry.
Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said that the “right ownership” must be considered, adding that it’s “vital” that “cool heads prevail” to secure a future for the industry.
Tory junior business minister Andrew Stephenson said yesterday evening that the government would “leave no stone unturned” in attempting to find a solution to the crisis.
Despite this, he added that “nationalisation is not the solution here” — citing EU rules on state aid. But the Communist Party has pointed out that there are no rules that would outlaw the immediate renationalisation of British Steel.
Business Secretary Greg Clark reiterated the sentiment of his colleague today, saying the government had shown a “willingness to act” by offering British Steel £120 million.
The government’s official receiver has taken control of British Steel after a collapse in negotiations between its owner — the private equity firm Greybull Capital — and government ministers.
Greybull bought the company for a nominal sum of £1 during the 2016 steel crisis — when Tata Steel sacked 1,050 workers across Wales and England.
The firm was then rebranded to its current name, but the company claims it has since been struggling due to the collapse in the pound and uncertainty around Brexit. It also cited escalations in the trade war between the US and China.
A Greybull spokesperson said: “The workforce, the trade unions and the management team have worked closely together in their determination to strengthen the business. However, the additional blows dealt by Brexit-related issues have proven insurmountable.”
The search for a new owner for British Steel has begun, and the company’s works are expected to function normally until a buyer is found.
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