Liberty Steel today said it plans to slash 355 jobs from its South Yorkshire and south Wales plants amid pressure from “challenging market conditions”.
Liberty Steel also blamed “a lingering reduction in demand for UK steel products” as it made the announcement.
In a widely reported statement, chief executive Cornelius Louwrens said: Liberty has taken enormous strides in improving the performance of the steel mills it has acquired over the last six years.
“We’ve re-started mothballed plants and demonstrated a commitment to invest in the UK.
“Unfortunately, the steel industry in the UK is facing challenging conditions and we have made the difficult decision that there is a need to reduce the workforce at a handful of locations, in order to make them sustainable for the long-term.
“It has always been our intention, and always will be, to avoid compulsory redundancies.
“Our commitment to these steelworks, and our ambition for the future of this business, is as strong as ever.”
It comes less than a year after Britain’s second-biggest steel producer, British Steel, went into administration.
The government was forced to take over operation of British Steel’s main plant in Scunthorpe and find a new buyer, in a process which took more than six months.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, said: “News of more steel industry job cuts is concerning and this will be a worrying time for many steelworkers and their families in south Yorkshire and south Wales.
“Today’s announcement shows yet again that challenges remain for the UK’s steel industry and that is why we reiterate our call on government to meet with unions and employers in the industry to discuss action on the outstanding issues which we have been campaigning on for some time, such as energy costs, business rates and procurement.
“We will be sitting down with Liberty Steel to look at their plans in detail and examine the rationale behind these proposals.
“In the meantime, we recognise that the company has indicated its intention to achieve any reductions through voluntary redundancy – we will be holding them to that commitment.”