Unions warn over the future of steelmaking in the UK after British Steel cut 260 jobs and shut coking ovens

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British Steel was acquired by Chinese firm Jingye in 2020 in what was dubbed as ‘a new era in British steelmaking’

Unions have warned over the future of steelmaking in the UK after it was announced that British Steel will close its coking ovens in Scunthorpe and cut up to 260 jobs, in what could have a "catastrophic impact" on steel production in the UK.

The firm, which is Chinese-owned, said an ‘unprecedented rise’ in costs, as well as demands to be greener and invest heavily in lower-carbon technologies leading to their demise.

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British Steel currently employs around 4,200 workers in the UK. They’re owned by Chinese firm Jingye who acquired them in 2020, with British Steel’s website stating that the purchase ‘started a new era in British steelmaking’.

British Steel’s chief executive, Xifeng Han, said: “Jingye is committed to our long-term future but decarbonisation is a major challenge for our business and, like most companies, we’re facing significant challenges because of the economic slowdown, rising inflation and exceptionally high energy prices.”

According to the BBC, the government said the decision by British Steel was "very disappointing" while negotiations were ongoing with the sector over funding support for the company.

In an effort to protect jobs, unions that represent steelworkers have suggested industrial action. Unite’s national officer Linda McCulloch, said: “Unite will pursue every avenue, including industrial action, to defend members’ jobs at British Steel.”

British Steel informed the workers of their plans on Wednesday morning (February 22) according to The Guardian. A source also reportedly told the publication that the closure could occur this year. 

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