Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 9th January 2020
Hundreds of jobs are to be cut from the workforce of the Liberty Steel Group, which operates steel production facilities in South Yorkshire and in South Wales.
The company has said that its decision to shed 355 jobs comes in response to “challenging market conditions and a lingering reduction in demand for UK steel products”.
A consultation involving union representatives is now set to take place but expectations are that around 280 jobs will be lost at Liberty Steel’s plant in Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire, along with another 70 or so at its facility in Newport, South Wales.
Staff at the two plants will be offered voluntary redundancy in advance of any compulsory redundancies coming into effect.
Liberty Steel acquired a series of assets in the UK over the course of recent years as the country’s steel industry struggled for competitiveness and profitability.
The company acquired the Newport steel plant in 2013 and restarted production at the site two years later.
The purchase of the plant in Yorkshire was completed in 2017 after the Indian conglomerate Tata Steel put its UK operations up for sale.
Liberty’s bosses have said that the job cuts planned for the near future form part of a wider plan to establish their operations on a more sustainable financial footing.
The company’s UK chief executive Cornelius Louwrens has described the Liberty Steel Group as having made “enormous strides” towards improving performance at the plants it acquired in recent years.
“We’ve restarted mothballed plants and demonstrated a commitment to invest in the UK,” he said.
“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.
“Our commitment to these steelworks, and our ambition for the future of this business, is as strong as ever.”
The UK steel industry has suffered thousands of job losses during the last decade and businesses in the field have struggled to remain solvent in many cases, with the availability of cheap Chinese imports often cited as a key factor contributing to those outcomes.