London: British Prime Minister David Cameron today assured the nation that his government is “doing everything it can” to save some 20,000 jobs at Tata Steel but warned there were “no guarantees of success” after India’s steel giant decided to sell its loss-making UK businesses.
Cameron, who cut short his Easter break in Spain and rushed to London to chair a crisis meeting of the Cabinet following Tata Steel’s decision, said nationalisation was not the answer but the government was “not ruling anything out”.
Cameron said the threat of thousands of job losses was “very difficult” and that his government would do “everything it can” but warned there were “no guarantees of success”.
“This industry is in difficulty right across the world. There’s been a collapse in prices, there’s massive overcapacity,” he told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
Tata Steel, which operates the country’s biggest steel plant at Port Talbot in south Wales, is losing 1 million pounds (USD 1.4 million) a day in its UK operations. A sale or restructuring would likely involve heavy job losses.
Tata Steel, one of the flagships of the over USD 100-billion Indian conglomerate Tata Group, said it has decided to “explore all options for for portfolio restructuring including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts” amid a “deteriorating financial performance of the UK subsidiary in the last 12 months”.
The Board of Tata Steel decided on Tuesday to decide on the future course of action in a bid to steer its embattled operations in Europe out of the rut, which face supply glut, increase in cheap imports from China amidst a continued weakness in demand in the European markets.
Cameron defended the government’s handling of the crisis after opposition Labour said it was “missing in action”.
Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said “the danger signs have been flashing red but have been largely ignored by the government” and accused the PM of having “failed to show any leadership”.
Cameron said the situation at Port Talbot, the country’s biggest steel factory, was of deep “concern” and said the steel jobs were “vital” to workers’ families and the communities.
“The government will do everything it can working with the company to try and secure the future of steelmaking in Port Talbot and across our country. It’s a vital industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BBC reported that it is understood the government wants reassurance Tata Steel will not close its plants before a buyer is found.
Tata Steel’s UK business – which directly employs 15,000 workers and supports thousands of others – includes plants in Port Talbot, Rotherham, Corby and Shotton.
Britain’s steel industry has been hit hard by cheap Chinese imports, leading to lower prices, forcing steelmakers to demand imposing anti-dumping duties on imported steel.