At the time of writing there has been no official confirmation, but it looks highly likely that the steelmaker Corus will be announcing cutbacks to its global workforce, including a sizeable scaling back in the UK.
Corus, through UK Steel is a member of EEF. While we never comment on individual companies, it is clear that the global steel sector has been hit by falling demand - particularly from carmakers, shipbuilders, construction and heavy engineering sectors.
The indications are that Corus will not close any of its four sites in the UK. As has been widely reported, the company is asking for Government support to hang onto staff and train them in preparation for an upturn. Such support would take the form of a temporary wage subsidy; a similar scheme is already in place in the Netherlands, where Corus also has significant operations.
EEF has argued that such a facility should be available more widely. (Indeed, the Welsh Assembly has already introduced a very similar pilot scheme, initially for the automotive sector.) While we accept that this may be no more than a temporary solution - after all, no one knows when demand will pick up - and we have concerns about the red tape inherent in such a proposal, we believe that we have to avoid the mistake of the past and make it easier for companies to hang onto skilled workers.
The Government therefore has a choice: is it better to spend taxpayers’ money on social security for such workers? Or is it better to help companies retain, and retrain, them (while accepting that at the end they still may have to be made redundant)?
UPDATE 12.15pm: Corus have now confirmed the cutbacks. They are talking about 3,500 jobs at risk across the company as a whole, with the bulk in the UK.