Steel orders have “fallen off a cliff” as coronavirus grips the country – despite the industry providing vital equipment to help in the fight against Covid-19, experts warn tonight.
Britain’s fragile steel sector faces yet another crisis as the pandemic hammers firms and the economy plunges towards a recession.
Union leaders issued a rallying call to workers – and urged them to follow strict social distancing rules at plants which remain open.
In a statement to members, seen by the Mirror, the National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee said: “There can be no doubt that the current crisis poses a threat to the steel industry in this country.
“In many cases order books have fallen off a cliff and it will be months before normal conditions return.
“We know that steel is a strategic foundation industry that underpins critical sectors of our economy.
“Steelworkers are resilient and we have been through crises before; it is imperative that our industry survives this latest threat to our livelihoods and our communities.”
Community steelworkers’ union general secretary Roy Rickhuss, who chairs the NTUSCC, said: “Our members are carrying out important roles in a vital foundation industry, feeding into essential manufacturing supply chains including for the NHS and food production.
“We want to make sure our industry can continue to play its part, survive this crisis and thrive in the future, which is why we are focused on keeping everyone safe at work so steel plants can remain in production.”
UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “It is crucial that the steel industry continues to manufacture the high quality steel products that Britain needs, and it is good to see that there is support for that across the industry.
“Britain’s steelmakers are making an important contribution to the national effort, supplying steel into critical supply chains in fighting this disease.
“This contribution includes the steel tubes for our NHS Nightingale beds and trolleys, the packaging that is keeping food on the shelves of our nation’s supermarkets, and much more besides.
“When this crisis passes the steel industry will be critical to our economic recovery, supply materials into the manufacturing, construction and infrastructure projects that will rebuild our economy.
“But first we must all pull together and do what we can to defeat this disease.”
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was battered by plant closures and thousands of job losses.