British Steel is to go into official receivership after talks with the UK Government failed to secure its future.
The move by Britain’s second-biggest steel maker threatens more uncertainty for thousands of workers at the company’s plants, mainly at Scunthorpe where more than 4,000 are employed.
British Steel’s owners Greybull Capital had been seeking financial support from the Government to the tune of a £30 million bailout, saying it faced a number of Brexit-related issues.
The firm’s uncertain future leaves 5,000 jobs at risk plus a further 20,000 in the supply chain.
Those jobs at risk will include some based in Scotland at British Steel’s main Edinburgh distribution base, which is situated in Roslin.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community trade union, said: “This news will heap more worries on workers and everyone connected with British Steel, but it will also end the uncertainty under Greybull’s ownership and must be seized as an opportunity to look for an alternative future.
“It is vital now that cool heads prevail and all parties focus on saving the jobs.
“In these very difficult circumstances we know the workforce will continue to fight for the business as they have done for so many years.
“We would urge the management, contractors, suppliers and customers to support them in that fight for the future.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Despite today’s announcement to place British Steel into official receivership, Unite will continue to engage all parties in the fight to secure the future of the company.
“We are clear that the Government must now step up and step in and bring British Steel into public ownership until a buyer can be found to avoid an economic and industrial catastrophe.
“While Greybull cannot be allowed to walk away scot-free and must be held to account for its stewardship of Britain’s second largest steelmaker, ministers cannot wash their hands of the Brexit farce and ongoing uncertainty that has placed the company in difficulty, nor allow a business of such strategic importance to UK plc to disappear like the steelworks of SSI several years ago.
“To do so would be a betrayal of a loyal workforce that has made great sacrifices to make British Steel a success and send economic shockwaves throughout the steel industry, UK manufacturing and the households of 20,000 workers in the supply chain who rely on the steelmaker for their livelihoods.”
Labour has called for British Steel to be nationalised.
Among British Steel’s major outlets is two plants based close to Middlesbrough, which employ 700 Teesside workers.
More than 150,000 UK steel jobs have been lost since the 1980s, according to a new study.
In 1981 the industry employed 186,000 workers, but the total has now slumped to around 32,000, said the GMB union.
The GMB said Yorkshire and the Humber has suffered the most job losses – 40,000 – followed by the West Midlands with 25,800.
GMB national officer Ross Murdoch said: “The decline of the UK’s steel industry is devastating to see.
“Consecutive UK governments have failed to protect our proud steel heritage and now Theresa May is overseeing its demise.
“Ministers must be prepared to make use of all the options, including nationalisation, in order to save British Steel and the wider steel industry.
“We need a genuine commitment to manufacturing in the UK which focuses on investment in infrastructure and improvements to technology and training.
“It’s time the Government took their hands out of their pockets and stood up for steel.”
In April, British Steel borrowed £100m from the Government to allow it to pay an EU carbon bill, so it could avoid a steep fine.
The Government said it would leave “no stone unturned” in its support for the steel industry.