Corus to axe 3,500 workers

The British steelworkers union, Community, said on Monday it would meet with Corus following a report the Anglo-Dutch group will respond to falling steel demand by cutting 3,500 jobs, including 2,500 in the UK.


AFP - Indian-owned steel group Corus said Monday that it would cut 3,500 jobs worldwide, including 2,500 in Britain, following a strategic review sparked by the global economic downturn.

Corus said the review, which is aimed at saving 200 million pounds (213 million euros, 276 million dollars) a year, will "put around 3,500 jobs at risk." The group employs 42,000 people worldwide.

"The structural changes we are proposing today have been carefully considered. They are essential for the future of the business," said Corus chief executive Philippe Varin.

"The company will keep its focus on priority areas such as training, research and product development, which, together with today's initiative, will ensure Corus is in the best possible shape to compete strongly in the future."

Trade unions were told the news in briefings with Corus management shortly before the announcement.

"This is a body blow for UK manufacturing," said John Wilson of the GMB union.

Steel prices have fallen sharply in recent months and world output fell by nearly a quarter in December as the global economic crisis hits demand.

The construction, auto, shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries are major steel consumers but they have been ravaged by the worst global economic slump in decades.

Corus said it took a series of measures in the last quarter of 2008 to address "the immediate effects of the economic downturn," generating some 600 million pounds in cash benefits by the end of March.

Today’s initiative is strategic and structural in nature," it said, adding that they should bring annual improvements in operating profit of more than 200 million pounds.

"It will also put around 3,500 jobs at risk around the company," Corus said, while vowing to "make every effort to achieve the job losses through voluntary redundancies, and retaining critical skills in the business.

"A comprehensive range of redundancy packages and outplacement support services will be made available to those leaving the company," it added in a statement, also pledging full consultations with employees and unions.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown lamented the announcement.

"It's a matter of great regret that Corus... took the decision to make workers redundant," his official spokesman said, while stressing that local officials and agencies would help find work for those who lost their jobs.

Derek Simpson of the Unite union said he would not accept compulsory redundancies. "We understand that Corus do face difficulties but before this recession Corus had been making extremely healthy profits," he said.

"Our members have supported Corus through good times and bad and now expect Corus to support them."

And he added: "The UK's manufacturing sector desperately needs support from our government similar to the support provided by the German, French and Swedish governments.

"We cannot afford to let a short-term problem deprive Britain of the skills we will depend on to compete in the world economy."

Anglo-Dutch group Corus was bought in 2007 by India's Tata Steel for 13.7 billion dollars.

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