STEEL unions have warmly welcomed the appointment of a man who helped preserve the region' steelmaking industry, to his new job as plant boss.
Cornelius Louwrens is now responsible for day-to-day operations at SSI UK's Redcar works following the decision at the end of last year by chief executive Phil Dryden to step down.
Mr Louwrens, who was promoted from within the Thai-owned business, will work closely alongside Win Viriyaprapkit, group chief executive and president, in a bid to align the Teesside business more closely with its Asian parent.
Mr Viriyaprapkit is now splitting his time equally between Bangkok and the North-East and taking a more hands-on approach to steering the loss-making plant towards making its first profit later this year.
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the Community trade union said:
"I'd like to wish Cornelius all the best in his new role. He's well-respected and he's got the right experience to do the job as I know from my dealings with him in the past.
"It's good to have somebody who already knows the organisation well and understands what the workforce went through when Community members led the Save our Steel campaign in Redcar.
"The workers fought so hard for their futures and I know that drive and commitment is still there to make sure SSI UK is successful.
"As with any new business, SSI has had its fair share of teething problems, but hopefully the company is through those now and can look to the future and to more investment in both the workforce and the plant."
Mr Rickhuss added: "I was particularly pleased to hear Win Viriyaprapaikit talking in The Northern Echo about SSI's long-term commitment to Teesside steel and "I think the fact he will be taking a slightly more hands-on role as managing director, demonstrates the extent of that commitment.
"When he said they are just 'guardians of the business' it shows he understands what that steelworks means to our members and the local community and that bodes well for the future.
"It would be good if the Government matched SSI's commitment to the business and to all our energy-intensive industries. Many of the challenges that SSI will continue to face are as a result of UK energy and environmental policies. It's time the government showed it's genuinely supportive of North-East businesses, such as SSI and Tata Steel, by working with industry and unions to develop and deliver an industrial strategy for energy-intensive industry that matches the support received in competitor countries such as Germany.
"That way there would be a real opportunity to rebalance the economy away from London and the South-East and to achieve sustainable economic growth."
Paul Warren, community branch secretary and chair of the SSI Multi-Union committee said: "The change in the structure of the UK business now means we are more closely integrated into the SSI group. We look forward to working with the new management team and building on the successful performance in which our members have played a hugely significant role.
"The engagement, understanding and commitment of the workforce has been key to getting us to this position. We now look forward to a more profitable period for the business in which our members can enjoy the rewards."