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  1. ITV Report

Union anger after EU steel summit "fails to deliver"

Welsh steelworkers, who joined a protest in Brussels before ministers met, were disappointed by the lack of immediate action by EU members. Photo: European Parliament

Steel union leaders say they're angry and disappointed that more wasn't achieved at a summit of European industry ministers called to tackle the crisis in the steel industry. Welsh steelworkers were part of a protest in Brussels during the summit. They wanted immediate action to stop China dumping cheep steel on the European market plus agreement for Britain to cut electricity costs to match prices elsewhere in the EU.

The meeting agreed "on the need to take concrete actions", according to the communique issued afterwards. But promises to use "the full range of EU trade policy instruments to ensure a global level playing field" and to reform rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions to make European steel more competitive were far too vague for the unions.

Ministers and the Commission have clearly failed to grasp the urgency of the current situation faced by the steel industry. Steelworkers whose jobs are at risk and who are seeing the impact of the dumping of cheap steel will take very little comfort from the conclusions of today’s meeting. We need action now and would have at least expected a clear statement of intent from the meeting.
What is clear due to the weak conclusions from today is that this must not deflect from the action that the UK government should be taking to support its steel producers. Steel needs short-term action but it also requires a clear commitment to its long-term future – from both government and employers in the industry.

– Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community

The UK government has been slow to act in offering concrete support for the country’s crisis hit steel industry, which has been battered by cheap Chinese steel imports where steel prices have collapsed in recent months. The sector is also suffering from the effects of energy prices and the emissions trading system which impacts heavily on the industry.

– Dave Hulse, GMB National Officer for Steel

One of the Welsh steelworkers in Brussels for the protest was Les Price from the Shotton works in Flintshire. He said the recent loss of 5,000 jobs in the UK steel industry would only be followed by more redundancies unless real action was taken.

Today the UK Business Secretary told MPs that steel was his top priority.

My first and foremost priority in recent weeks has been to do what I can to help the steel industry. I pushed for and was granted an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers, which took place in Brussels yesterday and led to a number of actions being agreed. I reiterate our support for the people in Redcar, Scunthorpe, Lanarkshire and elsewhere who have lost their jobs recently. This is an extremely difficult time for all who are affected. I say to them: we are resolutely on your side.

– Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP

But his junior minister said it would still be a matter of weeks before the European Union signed off a compensation scheme for energy intensive industries. And in the Assembly, the AM who represents Port Talbot steelworks said he couldn't detect any sense of urgency by the UK government.

You do get the impression listening to the responsible UK minister that steel isn't important, that it's a relic of the past

– David Rees, Labour AM for Aberavon

The First Minister said there should be immediate action to help steel and all other high energy industries in the UK to give them the same energy costs as elsewhere in Europe. In Brussels, the Labour MEP for Wales, Derek Vaughan, also wanted to emphasise the UK government's responsibility.