In light of the emerging steel crisis in the UK, and following the collapse of Caparo Industries, I called on the UK Government to apply for European funding to help steelworkers facing redundancy across the UK.
The UK government has so far failed to bid for available EU funding to support workers affected by mass redundancies in a single company or a particular sector. This includes help with looking for a job; careers advice; education, training and re-training; mentoring and coaching; and entrepreneurship and business creation.
The European Global Adjustment Fund has a total budget of £110 million and can offer grants of up to 60 per cent of the costs of projects helping workers find jobs or set up their own businesses.
Steel is a key industry here in the West Midlands employing thousands and I am hopeful that this remains the case for the coming years. Job losses at Caparo Industries in the Black Country, however, give me great cause for concern.
There can be no more excuses for inaction. The UK Government has the opportunity to apply for over £5 million of EU funds to help families affected by closures in the steel industry.”
This is money which would be particularly beneficial to steelworkers here in the West Midlands who are concerned about losing their jobs. It is money steelworkers are entitled to, money to help them get back on their feet.
The UK Conservative government has so far refused to consider giving state aid, arguing it would be against the European Commission State Aid rules for steel. However, as the Italian government has shown at the Ilva steel plant in Taranto, Sicily, this is simply not the case.
Last year the Romanian steel sector received more than £2.5m to help 1,000 former steel workers who lost their jobs, while in 2011 the Dutch printing sector received more than £4m to help 1,764 workers made redundant across the country.
Why should British workers who’ve been made redundant not get the same help as their Romanian and Dutch counterparts?
The time has also come for Europe to come together to deal with the global challenge of Chinese steel dumping and protect the UK steel industry.