Steelworkers on the Brussels demonstration. Photo: ETUC
British steelworkers take #SaveOurSteel message to Brussels
Steel union members from Scunthorpe, South Wales and other parts of the UK joined over 10,000 steelworkers from all over Europe to demonstrate in Brussels today against Chinese steel dumping, ahead of a meeting of EU trade ministers on Friday.
They were marching to protect jobs in Europe from Chinese attempts to undercut their industries with subsidised steel. On Friday, those trade ministers will be asked to beef up what are known as ‘trade defence instruments’ (TDIs) allowing the European Union to prevent dumping, especially by raising tariffs against steel that is found to be unfairly subsidised.
Trade unions have been calling on Ministers to carry out a comprehensive reform of TDIs for more than two years. The European Parliament amended the current trade defence system to impose stiffer duties on dumped or subsidised imported goods if the exporting third country ‘does not have a sufficient level of social and environmental standards.’ However, the Member States did not accept this proposal and the reform has been stuck in the Council for over two years.
Europe’s top trade unionist, Luca Visentini, said:
“Unfair competition is destroying EU manufacturing jobs. Europe must have the proper tools to defend its industry. EU needs strong trade defence instruments to impose targeted restrictions on anticompetitive imports into Europe, above all if produced by workers not protected by international labour standards. It is time for the Council to agree to give European workers a fair chance.”
And he added: “It is ridiculous that the UK has announced its intention to leave the EU and yet is obstructing urgently-needed reforms.”
Unite national officer Harish Patel said:
“With the UK steel industry in continued turmoil and the added uncertainty of Brexit in the mix it is vital that the UK government supports action to halt the flood of cheap Chinese steel and secures tariff free access to the single market in Brexit negotiations. A failure to do so will leave a key foundation industry of our economy hanging by a thread.
“Ministers must also make good on their promises of supporting the UK’s steel industry through these tough times by pursuing an active industrial strategy which sees them insist on using British steel for infrastructure and defence projects. Thousands of UK jobs and a core industry still hang in the balance with the steel crisis still very much far from over. Steelworkers have had misery heaped upon uncertainty and have been forgotten about by the UK government, but Unite is determined to make ministers remember.”
And GMB national officer Dave Hulse, on his way to Brussels yesterday, told us:
“What we want is fair trade and for the dumping of Chinese Steel to cease. Along with our colleagues from all over Europe, GMB will join together to show our anger at the lack of support from the UK government and Brussels. If the UK government don’t wake up soon then we will end up with the biggest crisis that UK manufacturing has seen. We have to make sure that the UK steel industry is aggressively tendering for major infrastructure projects and that is fully supported by government. Our members are made of steel and will keep campaigning till they get their just rewards.”