Crisis talks in bid to save thousands of jobs in steel

Javid came under fire for being in Australia as Tata met in Mumbai. Picture: BBC

Javid came under fire for being in Australia as Tata met in Mumbai. Picture: BBC

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Union leaders will today meet to discuss the crisis gripping the steel industry as efforts continue to save thousands of jobs.

Shop stewards from steelworks across the country will hold emergency talks in London and continue pressing the government for help.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled ministers were working on plans to reduce energy costs and take on some of the pension liabilities in an effort to attract a buyer for Tata’s loss-making UK assets.

He faced calls from Labour for his resignation after he disclosed he had been aware Tata had been meeting last week in Mumbai to discuss the future of its UK operations but chose to go ahead with a trip to 
Australia.

The business secretary played down suggestions Tata could close down its UK operations, with the loss of 15,000 jobs, in as little as six weeks if a buyer was not found in time.

However, he acknowledged that the UK Government would have to come forward with some financial assistance if there was to be a deal.

“Tata will issue an offer document very soon. Alongside that, the UK government know – I’ve known for a while – that we’re also going to have to offer support to clinch that buyer and give that steel plant a long-term, viable future,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“I do feel, though, for lots of reasons after talking to Tata and many others involved in this, that there will be enough time to find the right buyer working with the Government and being able to take this 
forward.”

While he did not believe that nationalisation was a solution to the problems of the business, he insisted he was ruling nothing out.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said of today’s meeting: “After a tumultuous few days this will be the first time representatives from all the steel unions from across Tata Steel can come together to discuss the industrial crisis facing the industry. They will be doing so with a determination to fight for their industry, their communities and to save our steel.

“But if they are to be given a fighting chance then the Government and Tata need to come clean on their intentions and prior discussions, because so far all we’ve had is more questions than answers.

“The apparent lack of urgency from Sajid Javid and absence of a clear plan from the Government is disturbing for the tens of thousands whose livelihoods hang in balance and deeply troubling for British Steel’s 140,000 pensioners.

“The confusion and lack of government leadership of the past few days strengthens calls for a recall of Parliament and underlines the need for the Prime Minister to take control and meet steel unions as a matter of urgency.”

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