Steelmaker Corus to Axe 3,500 Jobs

Unite union says that the UK's manufacturing sector needs government support similar to that provided by the German, French and Swedish governments.

Indian-owned steel group Corus said on Jan. 26 that it would cut 3,500 jobs worldwide, including 2,500 in Britain, following a strategic review sparked by the global economic downturn. Corus said the review, which is aimed at saving 200 million pounds, (US$276 million) a year, will "put around 3,500 jobs at risk." The group employs 42,000 people worldwide.

"The company will keep its focus on priority areas such as training, research and product development, which, together with today's initiative, will ensure Corus is in the best possible shape to compete strongly in the future, said Corus chief executive Philippe Varin.

Trade unions were told the news in briefings with Corus management shortly before the announcement. "This is a body blow for UK manufacturing," said John Wilson of the GMB union.

Steel prices have fallen sharply in recent months and world output fell by nearly a quarter in December as the global economic crisis hits demand. The construction, auto, shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries are major steel consumers but they have been ravaged by the worst global economic slump in decades.

The company said it will "make every effort to achieve the job losses through voluntary redundancies, and retaining critical skills in the business. A comprehensive range of redundancy packages and outplacement support services will be made available to those leaving the company." The company also pledged full consultations with employees and unions.

Derek Simpson of the Unite union said he would not accept compulsory redundancies. "We understand that Corus does face difficulties but before this recession Corus had been making extremely healthy profits," he said. "Our members have supported Corus through good times and bad and now expect Corus to support them."

And he added: "The UK's manufacturing sector desperately needs support from our government similar to the support provided by the German, French and Swedish governments.

Anglo-Dutch group Corus was bought in 2007 by India's Tata Steel for $13.7 billion. .

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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