Corus tight-lipped on plant’s future

Steel giant Corus has called for support from central government and the Welsh Assembly to help secure the future of a key south Wales plant.

The call follows a meeting with union leaders in London over whether Corus would go ahead with a £35m overhaul of one of the blast furnances at the Llanwern plant in Newport.

But the jobs of the plant’s 2,500 workers remain in the balance after Corus left the meeting saying no decision had been made.

Union leaders view the maintenance work as crucial to the long-term future of the plant and steel-making in the UK.

A report in Thursday’s Financial Times suggested Corus would agree to implement the work.

But a Corus spokesman dismissed the article as “speculation”.

But he added that a final decision would be taken before the end of the month and an announcement could be made after Corus’s board meets next week.

Corus recently announced 1,300 job losses at mainly Welsh plants bringing the total number of job cuts at plants across the UK to 4,500.

The ISTC union believes the Llanwern investment is, therefore, vital for confidence in the industry’s future.

The union’s general secretary Michael Leahy said: “We had an honest, frank exchange of views.

“As to the future of Llanwern, we believe that Corus does want to re-line the number three blast furnace but does need help from local and national government.

“We do believe that no decision has yet been made and that the Welsh Assembly, local authorities and the government must offer more assistance than they have offered to date.”

‘Efficient industry’

Corus – formed last year by the merger of British Steel and the Dutch firm Hoogovens – blamed the recent job losses on the “sustained strength” of sterling.

The steel giant has confirmed more than 3,700 redundancies in recent months in a bid, it said, to reduce costs and become more efficient.

Welsh Assembly Member for Newport East John Griffiths has urged the firm to end the speculation.

“The workforce has constantly retrained, upskilled and endured ongoing job losses while making the works one of the most productive and efficient in the world,” he said.

“It is high time their commitment and effort was recognised with the necessary investment to maintain Llanwern at the forefront of worldsteelmaking.

“The current anxiety and concern among the employees should be immediately ended with a decision to go ahead with the re-lining and secure the plant’s future.”