British Steel plans to cut 2000 jobs – and claims it’s to help the climate

Scunthorpe Steelworks
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On 21 October, the Times reported that British Steel has threatened to cut up to 2000 jobs from its workforce. The paper said the move is a key part of the company’s plans to replace its coal-powered blast furnaces with electric arc furnace technology, which produced “greener” steel.

The switch could unlock new funding for Chinese group Jingye, which has owned British Steel since 2020. That includes up to £300m of taxpayer funding, according to the Times report.

‘Green steel’

A spokesman for British Steel said the firm was committed to:

providing long-term, skilled and well-paid careers for thousands of employees and many more in our supply chains.

However, he added that the company was “continuing to assess our options”, and that:

As part of our journey to net zero, it is prudent to evaluate different operational scenarios to help us achieve our ambitious goals

The Times noted that no final decision had been made over the possible job losses.

Read on...

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GMB, one of the three unions representing steelworkers in the UK, told Agence France-Presse it doesn’t accept that:

mass job losses are the way to decarbonise the steel industry.

There are a myriad of options available and a fair, just transition for workers must be at the centre of any plan

Meanwhile, a representative for Unite told BBC Radio Tees that the demand for ‘green steel’ should provide an opportunity for a “brighter future” with up to 8000 jobs.

Jingye itself declined to comment.

Steel industry facing further cuts

British Steel is battling losses believed to be running at £30m a month, according to the Mail on Sunday. The cuts would decimate its 4500-strong workforce at its Scunthorpe plant and headquarters in northeast England.

The government has stated that its “commitment to the UK steel sector is clear”. It noted a £500m funding boost to facilitate greener steel production by Tata Steel at its Port Talbot site in South Wales. A spokesperson added:

We continue to work closely with industry, including British Steel, to secure a sustainable and competitive future for the UK steel industry

Despite this, the plant’s owner is still planning to cut around 3000 jobs.

During a visit to Port Talbot on 23 October, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said he’d had “productive” talks with union leaders about the transition to green steel.

For the benefit of profits

The situation at both British Steel and Tata Steel reflects growing criticism about climate concerns being used to greenwash job cuts. Critics fear that climatological arguments provide a convenient cover for profit-motivated layoffs.

Showing that a green economy could be better for jobs has become an integral part of the campaign against fracking in the UK. The Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group (CACCTU) produced two extensive reports detailing just such an argument.

As British industries shift to more environmentally friendly methods of production, we must remain vigilant that this doesn’t become simply another excuse to harm workers in the pursuit of corporate greed. When a company chooses to sacrifice its bottom line before its employees in the name of the climate, then we’ll know they’re serious – but don’t go holding your breath.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Gareth James/Geograph

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  • Show Comments
    1. British Steel plans to cut 2000 jobs – and claims it’s to help the climate
      Firstly people /voters of U.K. the Tory Govt/M.P./Ministers/P.M. alike sold our steel firms down the toilet to overseas rich Business people that funded Tory election (No ifs No but about this party of my post)
      So now the new overseas owner are sacking more steel workers Sunak-Hunt will this not put more pressure on our Benefit serves as the skills the steel worker have will not be needed anymore so them finding another job may be impossible for some of the workers.
      Can you tell us voter-resident of U.K.
      Tory party M.P./Minister/P.M. alike why you Tories turned your back on and C**p on our steel workers years ago?
      I hear the C**p FUNDING OUR STEEL firm would cost U.K. taxpayer more cash but let look at what Tory Govt have wasted our British taxpayer money on voters the steel worker also paid into Govt money pot.
      WASTED taxpayer money
      1— letting Immigration get out of hand Legal or illegal boat people.
      2—Renting fees paid out to hotels for the illegal Immigrant people.
      3—H.S.2 C**p rail link that’s been abandoned now by Tories.
      4—Paying court fees & H-solicitors fees to sort out laws & rules of governance the Tory Minister/P.M. have broken over Humen rights act.
      5—Funding two wars NOW Israel -Hamas -Ukraine wars WHY?
      6—Paying dodgy Tory M.P. that lose their Jobs A large cash funding payment then they set them back on in Govt when the cheques clear.
      7—Legal fees to get out of NOT paying our N.H.S staff the money wages increase the Tory party owe then from 10 years ago of underpaying them.
      Just a few things Tory party have wasted our British taxpayer money while NOT helping our steel firms out in the U.K.
      Sunak-Hunt what help will Rolls-Royce get, or will you let this place go down the toilet Tory M.P. of Pendle area BY no help for them Y-N?
      Voter of U.K. Tories have proven they will sell all U.K. business out to over seas rich business people to get party election fund only for their M.P. So next G.E. vote wisely if you wish to keep U.K. job going voters.

      1. Your resentment of the relative pittance spent out of public funds on migrants is merely pandering to the far right and does you no credit. Compare that sum with the many tens of billions of pounds being spent on maintaining and upgrading our Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and you will see that welcoming and assisting migrants is money well spent. Those people become assets to our society, unlike an unproductive military which is always a drain on any economy.

        1. Can I politely ask the following of you
          I would like to see your true identity picture
          not a cat picture before I reply to your post

          My post picture is my true identity picture I do hide my identity from the public
          so why are you (I will be glad when the Tory Govt new laws comes into play) next year
          where all people that post or comment on any website MUST show their true identity
          pictures (faces) or will not be allowed to post at all no more cat or dog or cartoon picture.

    2. “When a company chooses to sacrifice its bottom line before its employees in the name of the climate” it will not be a private company or a corporation, but publicly owned and non-profit. The purpose of a business in a capitalist economy is not to provide goods or services, not to provide jobs, not to pay for costs to the environment – but to make profits. It has no other purpose, and any business owner who acts otherwise will soon find themselves to be a former business owner. Hoping to persuade British Steel or any other business to protect the jobs of workers is utterly foolhardy.

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