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CN Briefing: SSI; steel; Chinese premier's UK visit; Steve Gibson

A disaster is in danger of turning into a crisis for the UK steel industry.

The closure of the SSI plant on Teesside, which was confirmed last week, may prove to be the thin end of the wedge.

That’s a strange statement given that 2,200 jobs are set to be lost, ripping the heart out of an entire community and potentially damaging the area’s economy for a generation.

But even since last week, things may have taken a turn for the worse. Reports began to emerge on Friday that Tata Steel was shedding 1,200 jobs at its Scunthorpe base, while today, Caparo Industries, with a workforce of 1,700, was forced into administration.

Given the blame for what’s happening to the industry is being placed at his country’s door, the visit of Chinese premier Xi Jinping to these shores seems well timed.

But the language coming out of the industry is beginning to sound defeatist.

Trade body UK Steel, for example, has called on David Cameron “to raise the issue of Chinese dumping of steel” and to turn to the EU “to tackle unfair dumping of steel across Europe”.

It says this would “send a powerful signal to Beijing”. But any issues raised by the PM with the president of a country with whom we’re entering “a golden decade” of cooperation are likely to be done in the politest possible terms.

And, unfortunately for the thousands of people who could lose their jobs, “unfair” dumping of cheaper imports may well be only that: unfair. Whether anything can be done, by Westminster or Brussels is a different matter.

Less polite was Steve Gibson, chairman of Middlesbrough Football Club, where laid off SSI steelworkers paraded defiantly in front of fans this weekend. In an interview in The Times today, Mr Morgan described business secretary Sajid Javid and local MP James Wharton as “clowns”

Mr Wharton also happens to be the Northern Powerhouse minister. That’s the same Northern Powerhouse that George Osborne has encouraged Chinese engineers and investors to help us build.

If they get here quickly, they might just get to see the cooling ingots of a once-great industry.

Solar woes continue

It’s not only the steel industry that’s having a tough time. As Jack Simpson reports, yet another solar firm has upped sticks in the wake of government subsidy cuts.

City slickers

Despite all the doom and gloom, one contractor will be celebrating after bagging up to £350m of work to build Goldman Sachs’ new City HQ. Find out who it is courtesy of CN deputy editor Tom Fitzpatrick.

Career opportunities

Looking for a new challenge? Construction News and sister title New Civil Engineer have launched a careers fair - Construction Live! - to help industry professionals take the next step in their working lives. Details of the event, in London on 13 November, can be found here.

 

 

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