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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Corus cuts 1,150 jobs
Rolls of Corus steel
Corus has reported big losses
Struggling steelmaker Corus is to cut 1,150 jobs as it battles to stem losses in the UK.

The future of a further 2,200 workers on Teesside remains in doubt.

The company has said its Teesside plant will no longer produce steel for Corus, but will be able to sell its output on the international market.

If it fails to make money, the Teesside plant will close.

The decision was slammed as "bizarre and inappropriate" by local MP Vera Baird.

'Extraordinary'

Corus has said 822 jobs will go at its plants at Stocksbridge near Sheffield, where steel production will cease, and Tipton in the West Midlands.

Main Corus plants
Scunthorpe (4,200 workers)
Port Talbot (3,080)
Teesside (2,900)
Llanwern (1,800)
Rotherham (1,500)
Trostre (990)
Stocksbridge (920)
Corby (820)
Shotton (730)

Other cuts will be made at Llanwern in South Wales and Teesside.

A Corus spokesman said the proposed job cuts were subject to refinancing and consultation with unions.

But Redcar MP Vera Baird attacked the "Victorian management style" of outgoing Corus chairman Sir Brian Moffat.

She said she would be seeking talks with Corus' new chief executive Philippe Varin, who takes over later this week.

"It's extraordinary to take the decisions when you've just appointed a new CEO with the intention that he should steer the future of the company, and leave him to pick up the pieces," she added.

Right attitude

But Sir Brian said that with the right attitude from the workers there was "every possibility" that Teesside could become internationally competitive and sell products to generate cash.

Sir Brian Moffat, Corus chairman
Sir Brian Moffat: leadership criticised
He said there was a growing market for the "slab" steel Teesside produced.

But he warned the plant would have to cut costs further to ensure its survival.

He also refused to rule out further job cuts across the group as a whole, saying they were "a feature of the scene" in the steel industry.

Corus' plan was to concentrate production in three sites, at Port Talbot, Scunthorpe and Rotherham, he said.

The aim was "to make the UK competitive even at the bottom of the (business) cycle.

"To be able to do that, unfortunately other sites have to suffer," Sir Brian said.

Stay of execution?

A spokesman for trade journal Metal Bulletin said the Teesside plant would struggle to find a market for its steel.

He said Corus would be forced to mothball the plant or sell it off if it did not start making money in the near future.

But Andrew Page, managing director of Corus Construction and Industrial branch, told workers the current business plan will run to two to three years.

He said the company would be looking to sell Teesside steel to Europe, America and the Far East.

Protests

Meanwhile, about 100 steelworkers staged a protest outside Corus' AGM in London, many wearing red T-shirts bearing the message: "Different singers, same old song".

Tony Poynter, who has worked at the Teesside plant for 34 years and chairs the works union committee, said: "This decision should have been left to the new chairman and chief executive but they seem to have had their hands tied by Sir Brian, which is totally wrong.

"The proposal is hasty and unthought-out and it is clear that unless Teesside can sell steel on the open market, they intend to close us."

'Blunders'

Inside the meeting, Sir Brian and other senior directors faced accusations of incompetence and mismanagement.

Demonstrations outside Corus' AGM
Workers demonstrated outside Corus' AGM
One shareholder said the Corus board of directors was the worst in the world.

He said they should resign en masse because of a series of "blunders" which had depressed the company's share value.

Other speakers accused the board of showing disregard to workers who felt "alienated and let down".

Executive salaries

The 828,000 salary of new chief executive Phillipe Varin, who starts his new job later this week, also came in for criticism.

The board was asked to explain why bonuses were being paid to executives this year amid huge losses and job cuts.

The majority of shareholders attending the meeting in London voted against accepting the remuneration report from the company.

But proxy votes meant that the policy was overwhelmingly accepted.

The company's shares rose strongly when the stock market opened, but settled back to end the day nearly 2% higher at 15.8 pence.

Corus employs more than 25,000 people in the UK and recently reported losses of more than 400m.

Have you been affected by the issues covered in this story? Send us your comments using the form below.


I have worked for Corus (British Steel) for 31 years and cannot understand the decision to leave us on our own when we were once labelled "The Jewel In The Crown". They cannot afford to shut us down and are just delaying the inevitable for if/when the banks give them more money to throw away. Hopefully somebody will come in and buy us and keep us going as we can make some of the cheapest steel in the world.
Ron Armes, Teesside

Corus is owner of the dutch Hoogovens steel and aluminium plant in Velsen where I grew up. Corus' staggering losses are only in the British plants - the Dutch plant is making a profit (especially with the high-tech products like aluminium). The British have been trying really hard to get rid of Corus' aluminium products in exchange for some hard cash to compensate for the ever increasing losses. That would be losing the best part of the company for what? The Dutch have opposed the sell-out, and I think that is their right. But if the relations between the British and the Dutch do not improve and these tensions keep mounting, then maybe it's best if Corus splits up.
Maarten Afman, Netherlands

Unfortunately no-one who has worked for Corus in recent years will be surprised by yet another display of total incompetance by the Corus board. I willingly exited the company last year by way of redundancy, having been sickened by the complete lack of strategic thinking by the board. Since then, the failed merger with CSN, the failed sell-off of the aluminium businesses and numerous other shambolic decisions have further undermined the company. This is a business filled with quality people appallingly led. The directors should be publicly flogged, not given bonuses!
Andrew Jackson, England

The workforce will do everything in their power to save steelmaking on Teesside
Gary, Teesside, England

I worked for Corus (British Steel) for 32 years. Always had a highly skilled workforce led by a third rate management. Nothing's changed.
A Houseman, UK

Four years ago I was in a meeting with senior management of Corus in South Wales, and was told that the UK operation would be only producing specialised steel products as that was the future. Now it appears they are closing this sector - so where does their future lie? Also, are the redundancies being made in the UK largely because it is cheaper to get rid of UK employees vs European ones? Perhaps Mr. Blair with his Mittal or US Steel Tarrif Lobbyist friends could advise Corus.
ian - berkshire, uk

The writing has been on the wall for Teesside for some time now. The movement of the long products headquarters to Scunthorpe did not bode well, along with the decline of export volume from Teesport. How Teesside Works are expected to compete in the open market against much cheaper products elsewhere in the world is hard to imagine. The nature of how this decision has been made public says a lot about the outgoing Chairman and the other executives. It is a pity that their pay doesn't reflect the failures they have directed the company towards. One thing is for sure, the workforce will do everything in their power to save steelmaking on Teesside.
Gary, Teesside, England

This is very worrying news - it seems to confirm my suspicions that steelmaking in the UK is in its death throes. I'm sponsored through university by Corus, and when I first joined the company (who were then British Steel) it was doing relatively well. It is sad to see what remains today, with the industry a shadow of its former self.
Alastair Clarke, Wales

Shocked and appalled by this announcement
AM, Sheffield, UK
I am absolutely shocked and appalled by this announcement. My partner works at Corus in Stocksbridge and will no doubt be one of the casualties of Corus' mis-management. A vast majority of the workers are at present working overtime in order to meet targets. How can this sort of news be justified when they appear to be so busy?
AM, Sheffield, UK

I used to work on Teesside Steel. Even then the bosses wouldn't say if it was closing or not. The moral of the workforce is very low due to not knowing. It is about time Corus said one way or another and put the workers out of their misery.
Stan Peverley, England

I find it utterly repulsive and insensitive that directors should have big pay-offs and salary increases while employees are being made redundant. This money should be used to go into redundancy packages, not into the pockets of fat cats who are already rich.
Liz Butcher, England

Who is going to protect industrial heritage and manufacturing jobs in the UK? Stocksbridge has been in operation for over 150 years and was the most efficient steel plant in Europe if not the world. How can this country let the skills and expertise of so many industries just disappear. Mining Industry RIP. Clothing Industry RIP. Steel Industry RIP. How long before the service industries start to go?
Hugh Gemmell, Sheffield, England



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The BBC's Jeff Randall
"Since 1970. UK demand for steel has fallen by about a third"



SEE ALSO
Steeltown's anger over job cuts
29 Apr 03 |  South Yorkshire
Plants avoid worst Corus cuts
29 Apr 03 |  Wales
Q&A: Corus job cuts
29 Apr 03 |  Business
Corus announces 200 new jobs
28 Apr 03 |  North East Wales
New bosses take charge at Corus
23 Apr 03 |  Business
Corus workers stage protests
14 Apr 03 |  Business

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