Liberty Steel is planning to reduce its workforce in South Yorkshire and South Wales by 355 and has offered those impacted either voluntary redundancy or a move to GFG Workforce Solutions, a new company that enables those affected to remain within the GFG Alliance, a company described by Liberty as a 'new flexible business'. Those affected will be at locations in Stocksbridge, Rotherham, Brinsworth and Newport in order to ensure the long-term viability and competitiveness of these locations.
Cornelius Louwrens, chief executive officer, Liberty Steel UK, commented: “Unfortunately, the steel industry in the UK is facing challenging conditions and we have made the difficult decision that there is a need to reduce the workforce at a handful of locations, in order to make them sustainable for the long-term. It has always been our intention, and always will be, to avoid compulsory redundancies. Therefore the creation of the GFG Workforce Solutions now offers those impacted the security of ongoing employment as an alternative.”
According to Liberty, participants in Workforce solutions will be available for deployment within GFG businesses, the GFG Foundation or via local employment agencies in roles that will complement individuals' existing skills. The new company was set up in keeping with Liberty's commitment to family, change and sustainability and will enable impacted employees to remain within the business.
The job cuts are the result of a review of its UK business undertaken by Liberty in response to 'challenging market conditions and a lingering reduction in demand for UK steel products. The workforce reductions match sustainable production forecasts, the company claims.
Despite the doom and gloom, Liberty has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK market and sees opportunities to prosper through home-grown manufacturing of steel products, through investment in new metals technology and through application of its GREENSTEEL strategy.
Louwrens said that Liberty had taken 'enormous strides' in improving the performance of its steel mills, acquired over the last six years. "We've re-started mothballed plants and demonstrated a commitment to invest in the UK," he said.
GMB, the union for steelworkers, says that British steelworkers deserve better.
Ross Murdoch, a GMB National Officer, said: "Once again we have more bad news for the UK steel industry. A country that doesn't produce its own steel for key infrastructure projects and shipbuilding is a county that's destined to fail."
Murdoch said that the Government urgently needs to intervene and ensure that UK steel companies receive the backing they have long called for on energy costs and business rates.
"GMB will, of course, engage with the company to mitigate any losses for our members and will continue to campaign with our sister steel trade unions to bring about the support and investment required," he added.
Louwrens said: “Our commitment to these steelworks, and our ambition for the future of this business, is as strong as ever.”