MP: Tata "dragging its heels" over Rotherham sale

STEEL union Community and MP John Healey have attacked Tata over the delays to reaching a deal which could safeguard the jobs of hundreds of Rotherham steelworkers.

The steelworkers’ union has spoken out about the further delays and uncertainty surrounding the sale of Tata’s Speciality Steels business, which employs more than 2,000 people in Rotherham and Stocksbridge and produces some of the most specialist steel products in the world.

Tata has previously announced that the Speciality business would be sold separately from their Strip business, but after months of rumour and speculation, workers are no closer to knowing if their jobs will be safe.

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Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: “While so much focus is on the sale of Tata’s Strip business and the uncertainty surrounding the pension scheme, Community will not allow Speciality Steels to become the forgotten part of the steel crisis.

“With over 2,000 direct employees and many thousands more in the local supply chain, this business is of huge importance to the South Yorkshire region.

“When Tata announced that they wanted to sell the business, we called on them to act as a responsible seller.

“The continued lack of information about that process and the worry this has caused amongst their loyal workforce is highly irresponsible.

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“Community has always said that we will play our part as a responsible stakeholder in helping safeguard the future of the business, but having committed to involve the trade unions in the sales process, Tata have yet to share details of potential buyers.

“Speciality Steels has every chance of a bright, profitable future, but this will only be possible if Tata ensure a new owner is able to invest in the business and build a positive relationship with the workforce.

“The months of uncertainty and delays must end today. Tata must come clean about the state of the sales process and fully involve the trade unions in helping to build a new future for this vital industry and its highly skilled workers.”

Meanwhile, Wentworth and Dearne MP Mr Healey has written to Tata boss Bimlendra Jha to end the uncertainty over the potential sale.

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“There appears to have been no progress and certainly no communication in recent weeks,” he said.

“It seems that the sale is on go-slow, while the 2,000-strong workforce are left in limbo and in the dark.

“More than 700 posts were cut during the first three months of 2016, the vast majority at Aldwarke.

“Then, just as this redundancy programme was completed in March, the shock announcement was made in Mumbai that Tata was set to sell its entire UK steel-making operations.

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“When this stalled, and moves to forge a new strategic alliance with ThyssenKrupp were revealed, Tata launched the sale of Specialty Steels as a separate business.

“We were told weeks ago that the range of potential purchasers had been reduced to two main bidders, with an indication that the one preferred buyer would be settled shortly after that.”

In a letter to Mr Jha, Mr Healey added: “Since then there has been silence from Tata, and it looks like your company is dragging its feet.”

Tata insisted discussions over the sale were “ongoing”.

A spokesman said: “Whenever we have significant news we always seek to tell our employees first.

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“We also communicate regularly with our employees about issues which could affect them including through briefings, newsletters.

“We have offered to meet John Healey MP to discuss the points in his letter.

“Discussions have been ongoing with a number of interested parties regarding the sales process of our Speciality Steels business since our announcement in July.

“Bidders have been given the opportunity to meet with management and conduct site visits, as well as having access to information to assist in performing due diligence.

“The process is ongoing and we will provide a further update at the appropriate point.”