Steelworkers joined union leaders and politicians to demand the Government ‘get off their backsides’ to tackle the crisis in their industry.
Hundreds of people attended a ‘Save Our Steel’ rally at Sheffield City Hall on Saturday afternoon, many travelling from steelmaking areas across Wales, Scotland and northern England to take part.
Thousands of job losses have been announced in recent weeks in areas including Teesside and Scunthorpe, with unions fearing more will be lost soon.
Firms have blamed high energy costs and business rates affecting industries such as steel, made worse by cheap Chinese imports.
Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore opened the conference and said around 10,000 people are still employed in the steel industry locally, mainly through Forgemasters and Tata Steel and associated supply chain companies.
She said: “It does appear to be history repeating itself when there was the decimation of the steel industry back in the 1980s.”
Speakers at the rally called for business rate cuts for the industry as well as a Government commitment for British steel to be used in all major infrastructure and construction projects.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Thousands of families are worried about their jobs and worried about their futures. To David Cameron, George Osborne and Sajid Javid, let me tell you this - get off your backsides and save our steel.”
Ian Kemp, a GMB representative for Rotherham and Stocksbridge, said: “This Government seems happy to let the steel industry go the same way as coal mining with towns like Scunthorpe, Redcar and my very own Rotherham becoming forgotten ghost towns.”
The Government has said it is taking steps to deal with the ‘unprecedented challenges’ facing the industry.
Business Minister Anna Soubry said: “The Government is well aware of the challenges facing our steel industry and we are working tirelessly to help. On dumping we have taken clear action. In July, we voted for anti-dumping measures on Chinese wire rod imports and just last week voted for further anti-dumping measures on other steel products.
“We will continue to do all we can to achieve a level playing field for our steel industry and workers.”
Among those in attendance at Saturday’s event were South Yorkshire MPs John Healey, Sarah Champion, Paul Blomfield, Caroline Flint and Angela Smith.
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh released a statement ahead of the rally calling for the Government to take ‘real action’.
She said: “The Government’s short-sighted decision to refuse to support an industry which has been at the heart of our city and in communities across the country for generations is short-termism at its worst.
“Rather than wringing their hands and hiding behind EU law, they should be taking concrete action; immediately cutting business rates, leading international efforts to stop China dumping steel, using our world-renowned steel on British infrastructure projects.”
A Business Department spokesperson said: “The Government will not stand aside whilst the steel industry faces such unprecedented challenges. We have already paid out over £50m in compensation for energy costs to steelmakers.”