Trade unions today warned Boris Johnson that thousands of industrial jobs are under threat because of the gas price crisis.
Unite, the GMB and Community – under the banner of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee – wrote to the Prime Minister to underline their “profound concerns about the ongoing energy crisis, and the threat this poses to jobs, communities and industries should your government fail to appreciate and address the impact on Britain’s steel companies”.
In their letter, seen by the Mirror, the unions stressed that British steel companies “are being hit much harder than our European competitors”.
Their letter says: “Currently we are paying more than twice as much for energy as French and German producers, and in September prices spiked at an astronomical £2,500/MWh, which is a 5,000% increase on April prices.
“These prices are simply not sustainable and we fear that with winter approaching, and with it the inevitable increased demand for gas and electricity, that we are on the verge of a full blown steel crisis that will threaten jobs.
“Already we are seeing production pauses at our companies, unheard of at this time of year, and if your government fails to act these pauses are likely to become more frequent and more serious.”
The workers’ leaders warned Mr Johnson – currently on holiday in Marbella – that “should your government do nothing now it could be a historic mistake with devastating consequences for steelworkers, steel communities, the industries that depend on us and the economy as a whole”.
AFP via Getty Images)
Taunting the figurehead of the 2016 Vote Leave fight which his referendum campaign pledges, they go on: “ Brexit was supposed to make it easier for the Government to back British industry and British jobs, but all we are seeing is the same old procrastination and excuses for doing nothing.”
“The steel industry is concentrated in areas of the country where employment opportunities can be limited including the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and South Wales – all places you say your government wants to level-up,” they say.
“This energy crisis presents a golden opportunity for your government to demonstrate that levelling-up is more than just a slogan, and this is an important test of your commitment to supporting British jobs and industrial communities.
“The seriousness of this situation calls for swift and decisive government action, and we look to you to provide leadership and overcome any frictions there may be between members of your cabinet.
“Most urgently, we need your government to implement a solution that protects our industry from the unprecedented and volatile energy prices we are experiencing.”
The intervention is aimed at piling pressure on Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to throw a lifeline to the sector which is a heavy consumer of electricity.
Across the wider economy, almost a quarter of a million workers are directly-employed in industries deemed energy-intensive – including 150,000 in chemicals, 38,000 in aggregates, 33,700 in steel, 22,000 in ceramics and 6,000 in glass.
Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Underlining the seriousness of the crisis, Energy Intensive Users Group chairman Richard Leese told the BBC: “Over recent weeks we have had all of the industry sectors coming out into the media and commenting on the unprecedented circumstances that we are in; that’s very unusual.
“We can take from that that there is an urgency in this situation. We need this preventative action to stop the issue escalating further.
“We have already seen pauses in production in steel and fertilisers.”
PM Mr Johnson has reportedly backed plans for the Government to loan millions to help industries hit by the rise in global gas prices.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has submitted a formal bid to the Treasury for emergency support amid mounting fears of factories being forced to shut.
However, the Mirror understands a Treasury announcement on help is unlikely this week.
Mr Leese warned: “It’s absolutely crucial that the speed of the Treasury assessment is quick and swift. The Business Secretary has taken swift action to look at the measures for this winter – we need an equally swift response from the Treasury.”