Employees from British Steel today joined thousands of other steelworkers from across Europe in a march through Brussels, demanding more support for the industry.
Workers from the company’s operations in Scunthorpe and Teesside were among those taking part in the European Steel Action Day rally.
The event saw steelworkers call for more measures to protect jobs by tackling the dumping of cheap steel imports, imposing effective trade defence instruments and greater investment in research and development.
According to industriAll, the European trade union, more than 80,000 steelworkers have lost their jobs across the continent since the economic crisis in 2008, and total employment has dropped to just 340,000 people.
Peter Hobson, who represents Community union members at Teesside Beam Mill, was among the British Steel employees in Belgium.
He said: “Today was another incredible example of the comradeship that exists among steelworkers, not just those from the UK but from across Europe and it was great to see British Steel flags proudly flying alongside those from other major European steel producers and manufacturers.
“No matter what country you come from, steel plays a vital role in your everyday life – whether it be in the house you live in, the office you work in, the car you drive or the train you travel in. That is why events like this are so vital in raising awareness about the challenges the steel industry faces.
“In the last year thousands of steelworkers in the UK have lost their jobs, plants have closed and mills have been mothballed. The impact of this on these highly-skilled workers, their families, their communities and the supply chain has been unimaginable and it cannot continue.
“We have been hit by cheap steel imports, most notably from China, and new laws and rules that increase operating costs for steel plants. Our energy bills and business rates, particularly in the UK, have a huge impact on a manufacturer’s profitability while we need effective trade defence instruments and greater investment in research and development to give us a sustainable future.
“We don’t expect handouts, we just need the support our vital industry and its people deserve. Hopefully politicians across Europe will have listened to what we have had to say today and now take the action needed to protect steel manufacturing and safeguard thousands of jobs across the continent.”
Among the other British Steel employees on today’s march were Paul Bee and Paul Trippet, both of whom work at the company’s Scunthorpe headquarters.
Paul Bee said: “We are forging a bright future at British Steel but it was only last year that thousands of people were marching through the streets of Scunthorpe demanding government action. We still need the support of politicians, at home and abroad, so it has been great to join forces with our fellow European steelworkers and demonstrate how important our steel industry is to us and other countries.
“They face many of the challenges we face and I hope our collective voice will ensure steelworkers get the support we need. We have lost too many jobs and too many mills, it can’t go on.”
Paul Trippet said: “All these people here today are highly skilled and dedicated to their jobs, their colleagues and their industry. The level of support we have seen has been incredible and I’m proud that I could play a part in raising more awareness about the issues.
“British Steel has a real spring in its step, and we are moving in the right direction, but because of the struggles we have been through, and the hurdles we still have to overcome, it was crucial we made our voices heard today.”
Paul Martin, British Steel’s HR Director, said: “I am pleased our employees have been able to show the pride and passion that runs through British Steel. We have come a long way in a short space of time but there is much to be done and all we ask for is a level playing field.”