The bosses of some of Britain’s biggest steel-makers will join unions and workers in an unprecedented show of unity today as they march on Brussels to demand urgent action in support of Europe’s struggling steel industry.
In a demonstration today , the chief of Tata Steel Europe Dr. Karl-Ulrich Köhler, and the Celsa group’s chief executive, Francisco Rubiralto – which employs thousands of people in Cardiff – will march to highlight the depth of the crisis facing the sector.
After heading to the European Commission buildings in Brussels, the industry chiefs and unions will meet with senior commissioners including Vice President Katainen who is responsible for jobs and growth.
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They will tell top decision-makers that Europe’s steel industry is facing a perilous future unless swift action is taken, such as imposing tougher duties to prevent the dumping of Chinese steel on the market.
In particular, they want commissioners to scrap the so-called ‘the lesser duty rule’ whereby the EU seeks to achieve the lowest possible tariff on imports.
Steelmakers argue that because China is exporting vast amounts of surplus steel at far below the cost of producing the goods, they are distorting the market and gaining unfair advantage.
China should also not be granted much-prized Market Economy Status (MES) by the EU, according to unions and steel chiefs, because they are not operating according to internationally accepted trading norms.
The granting of MES-status for China could result in the decimation of strategic EU industries with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
According to the demonstrators, the UK must not go down on bended knee to China, but stand strong and oppose their calls for MES.
Director of UK Steel, and taking part in today’s march – Gareth Stace commneted: “I cannot remember an occasion where company bosses have joined unions and employees to march on the European Union’s offices and demand more action.
“It highlights the sheer scale of the problems we face, with the UK at the eye of the storm. Without urgent action on anti-dumping measures and the lifting of the Lesser Duty Rule we will probably see further job losses, not only in the UK but across the whole of Europe.”
British business minister Anna Soubry is attending the crisis talks alongside French economic minister Emmanuel Macron.
Stace added: “The Business Minister has warned that some of the duties already imposed do not reflect the actual harm caused to the industry.
“That is why we are bitterly shocked and disappointed that the UK will not reconsider its opposition on scrapping the Lesser Duty Rule. The UK Government must lead by example and ensure that swift and firm action is taken in Brussels.”
“The UK and the European Union cannot remain passive when rising job losses and steelwork closures show that there is a significant and impending risk of collapse in the European steel sector.”