The UK’s steel industry is braced for a civil war after a number of rebar fabricators threatened to form a breakaway organisation in response to what they see as “protectionism” over Chinese imports.
Construction News understands that at least half a dozen companies met last month amid concerns that imported Chinese rebar was being unfairly targeted in a bid to limit free trade.
The group could now form a new organisation independent of the British Association of Reinforcement.
The potential split comes as the industry watchdog considers tightening the standards by which it assesses steel.
The British Standards Institution is due to meet this week to discuss amendments to its minimum standards for rebar.
It is understood the meeting was prompted by concern among trade bodies BAR and UK Steel about the level of certain alloys, such as boron, in imported Chinese steel.
The BSI committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow (10 September) could result in a revision to its BS4449 standard, which would then need to be met to gain approval from industry watchdog Cares.
Cares approval is effectively the industry’s kitemark, with firms unlikely to use rebar that has not been approved.
“Everything that’s coming in still meets the [current] British standard because it never anticipated the adding of boron,” said UK Steel director Gareth Stace.
“We are just calling for two simple amendments to the standard to ensure the integrity of the steel. All we are saying is we’d like the rebar standard to be met.”
But independent fabricators believe attempts to change the standards could curb Chinese imports and have accused the trade bodies of protectionism.
“We should not worry about where our material comes from,” one fabricator told Construction News. “This is just scaremongering.”
An insider at a steel contractor said: “Either the stuff is good enough or it isn’t.
“If it is to the right quality then it is a free market and if our people can’t produce it at those levels then something needs to be done about it.”
It is understood that officials at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills are aware of the issue and are monitoring the situation.