Company bosses join steelworkers for ‘passionate’ Brussels demonstration
- Credit: PA
Company bosses joined thousands of steelworkers in a “passionate” demonstration in Brussels calling for urgent action to help their crisis-hit industry.
Hundreds of workers from the UK were among those pressing for the European Commission to tackle cheap Chinese steel being “dumped” across Europe.
Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, marched alongside 500 workers from his company’s plants in the UK, including Port Talbot in south Wales where hundreds of jobs are being axed.
He said : “I was proud to experience the passionate spirit of our colleagues during the protest.
“Together with our peers in the steel industry, we told European leaders loud and clear to stop the tide of unfairly-traded material that threatens our jobs, our industry and our future.
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“The European steel industry is in a fierce fight for its future. Huge global overcapacity and unfair trade practices - mainly by China and Russia - have pushed steel prices to historically low levels.
“The dumping of steel below its cost of production will continue as long as our regional, national and European leaders fail to introduce trade defence protections quickly and effectively. Measures so far have been slow and half-hearted.”
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He warned that unless the EC took immediate action, thousands of jobs in the industry, and many more thousands in the wider supply chain, will be threatened.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community union, said: “We have to make governments in the UK and across Europe understand the human cost of not taking action to create the chance of a sustainable future for our steel industry.
“Today, steelworkers and their employers were united in their plea for more swift and robust measures to stop unfairly traded steel and a level playing field to compete in a global market.
“Delays in heeding our warnings and acting to end Europe’s steel crisis will only leave thousands more jobs under threat and put the future of a vital, strategic industry at risk, with devastating consequences for steel communities around Europe.”
Mr Geert Van Poelvoorde, president of the European steel association Eurofer, said: “We have seen a surge of steel imports, a rise of over 100%, from China into the EU over the past three years.
“Imports are coming into Europe at price levels below the cost of production; this is what is known as ‘dumping’.
“The EU has trade defence instruments to respond to this type of behaviour, but they have been incredibly slow to utilise trade tariffs. An urgent adaptation of trade legislation is required.
“Since the financial crisis, 85,000 jobs have been lost in the European steel industry; in the past six months alone, 7,000 jobs have gone.
“Without utilising the trade defence instruments available to us in a timely manner, there is a substantial risk that we will see more plant closures and job losses.”
Business Minister Anna Soubry said: “We are taking action on energy costs, public procurement and industrial emissions at home to help the steel sector, but this is a global problem requiring a global solution.
“We are working with other EU governments, industry leaders and trade unions to stress to the European Commission the need for swifter investigations into dumping and the tariffs then being set at the right level.”
GMB national officer Dave Hulse said: “The European Commission has done next to nothing to save steel jobs.”