Liberty Steel will be forced to lay off 440 workers after announcing that it was halting steel production at plants in Newport, Tredegar, and West Bromwich, and is set to look to cheaper imports for specialised steel production in Yorkshire. “The production of some commodity grade products at downstream mills has become unviable in the short term due to high energy costs and imports from countries without the same environmental standards,” the company said in a statement, The Times reports. “Primary production through Rotherham’s lower carbon electric arc furnaces (EAFs) will be temporarily reduced while uncompetitive operating conditions prevail,” the company added. According to The Times the British steel industry pays as much as 60 per cent more in energy costs and green carbon emission costs than steel companies in Germany or France, and some have warned that other British firms may be heading for job losses or shut down. Alun Davies, national officer of steelworkers’ union Community, complained that trade unions had initially supported the company after independent audits of business plans by union experts, but that “the plans we reviewed were based on substantial investment and ramping up production, including at Liberty Steel Newport, and did not include the ‘idling’ of any sites.” “These are challenging times for all steelmakers but the company’s decision to change their plans, on which we based our support, and announce a strategy seemingly based on capacity cuts and redundancies is devastating,” Davies said. Liberty Steel, which is owned by Indian-born magnate Sanjeev Gupta, is a speciality steel provider for aerospace companies, including jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and civil and military aerospace company BAE Systems. A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the job losses were”concerning,” saying: “Obviously it will be concerning for workers at Liberty Steel. We are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the UK steel sector. We want to work closely with the industry to achieve this.” The British government had initially promised energy bill support for businesses but earlier this week scaled back the measures, claiming that the current levels of aid were simply unsustainable. Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has insisted that “[w]holesale energy prices are falling and have now gone back to levels just before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.” The ongoing energy crisis has also led to predictions of “deindustrialisation” in other countries. “The danger of deindustrialisation cannot be dismissed out of hand,” warned Nikolas Stihl, the head of the chainsaw manufacturing company Stihl. “The German location could eventually reach a tipping point with a strong negative impact on the willingness to be entrepreneurial in this country.” The warning came after Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck admitted that many industrial companies may be forced to shut down temporarily due to energy costs. “I can imagine that certain industries will just stop producing [so they] don’t become insolvent,” Habeck has said..
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