Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union

1.  The effect of adverse trading conditions on Corus and the UK economy

  Manufacturing is at the heart of creating a strong and stable economy. It accounts for around two-thirds of UK exports. The metals industry, a vital force within manufacturing, has been taking a pounding on prices and margins. It is now cheaper to source from Europe and an increasing number of companies are importing materials and components. If this trend is not checked there are serious implications for the future of steel in the UK.

  The AEEU is not prepared to stand by and watch the demise of this industry and has been lobbying government for a summit meeting to discuss the problems—which include the strength of sterling, high transportation costs, membership of the single currency and the energy tax. A meeting with the DfEE, the employers and the unions will be held on 23 November 2000.

2.  The AEEU is concerned that Corus will move production overseas

  Earlier this year the unions were instrumental in winning a £120 million five-year Railtrack contract for the Workington plant. The company subsequently switched production from Workington to its recently acquired subsidiary in France, Sogerail, resulting in job losses at Workington. Corus is a multi-national company and this decision to switch production to Europe could have serious implications for other UK plants. Corus is continuing with its programme of overseas mergers and acquisitions while announcing further capacity cuts in Wales (October 2000).

3.  Early and constructive discussions on redundancies or closures

  At present Corus gives the unions up to 48 hours' notice of redundancies or closures. The purchasing power of steelworkers is vital to local businesses and communities. For a long time, the AEEU has been seeking early consultation with the company so that alternative options can be explored and the social and industrial aspects of these decisions taken into account. Through its partnership approach the AEEU is committed to the success of British industry and recognises that productivity depends on flexible attitudes to changing and improving skills. The Union has been working, and will continue to work, with the company in pursuit of manufacturing excellence.

4.  Future investment in Corus's UK plants

  Continued investment in UK plants is vital if Corus is to continue steel production in the UK. The medium and long-term future of the industry could be jeopardised unless the necessary investment is forthcoming. The AEEU recognises that for its members to improve their standard of living the companies for which they work must be economically successful and would welcome an opportunity to participate in discussions on the long-term future of Corus in the UK. The company's current strategy is difficult to understand in that it is having a demoralising effect on the workforce and on its customer base.


4 FebruaryCorus Rail, Workington—11 job losses
21 JulyStrip Products—total job losses 850
—400 out of a total workforce of 3,500

Port Talbot

—450 out of total workforce of 3,000

  Corus Colours—total job losses 150

Shotton, Tafarnaubach, Bryngwyn, Pontardulais, Birmingham
  Corus Packaging Plus
—total job losses, 1,300

Ebbw Vale and Trostre—300/1980 (mostly Ebbw Vale)
14 JulyCorus Construction & Industrial—total job losses 1,214

—677 out of a total workforce of 4,400

  Teesside Works—526 out of a total workforce of 3,550

—11 out of a total workforce of 350.

  Corus Cold Drawn Tubes, West Midlands—total job losses 60

  Total workforce—198
16 JuneCorus Research Development & Technology—total job losses 230

  Three existing centres, with a total workforce of 1,280 (including 380 at Ijmuiden), to be closed and a new Technology Centre established with approximately 450 employees.

   Teesside Technology Centre
—total workforce of 235

  Swinden Technology Centre, Rotherham—total workforce of 365

  Welsh Technology Centre, Port Talbot

total workforce of Welsh Technology Centre, Port Talbot—total workforce of 200

  Corus Engineering Steels—Rotherham and Stocksbridge—total job losses 1,200

  Tinsely Park—to be closed by December 2000

  Metal Recycling Business—to be sold by December 2000

  Stocksbridge—reduction in manning

11 OctoberCorus—total 210 job losses

Port Talbot

Lackenby, Teesside—65


1 November 2000  

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