UNION representatives last night turned their fire on Tata Corus following its decision to mothball its Redcar steel plant.

In a strongly worded statement, the Corus European Works Council (EWC), which includes representatives from across the company’s European business, said it was unacceptable that the firm had blamed an international consortium for its decision after the consortium pulled out of an agreement to buy steel from the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant.

It said: “Tata Corus is rushing to put thousands of people out of work. The EWC questions Tata’s claim to be a socially and morally responsible employer as it is abandoning the Teesside steel community and their families, and calls on Tata Corus to reconsider its decision.”

The statement said there were many outstanding questions for the company and that it had failed to answer why it did not pursue potential buyers either of the steel product or TCP itself, which, it was understood, were still interested right until the closure announcement was made.

It said: “Opportunities to sell or lease land [at the site] to provide some income to TCP were also available, and local politicians had offered assistance in securing further Government support for TCP.

“It is understood Tata Corus did not wish to explore these other options, but there has been no explanation why they would not examine everything to keep TCP as a going concern.”

Geoff Waterfield, multiunion chairman of TCP, said: “Corus Tata have been quite quick to blame the [international] consortium, but there are a lot of things the company themselves are culpable of.

“It was a group of five, with Corus taking 22 per cent of the profits. They shared the profits and have now decided to throw Teesside on the scrapheap without even talking about a rescue plan.

“They are no different from the consortium. They are possibly worse because they have a duty of care to the people of Teesside.”

Bob Jones, of Tata Corus, said the issues raised would be discussed in a meeting involving senior management and the works council in the near future and that it was not right to comment further at this stage.

Government pledge over fund

A RESPONSE group set up to help Corus workers yesterday pledged to look again at the benefits of making a claim to a European cash fund.

This week, the Government said an application to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund – which helps people who have been made redundant as a result of the global economic downturn – was not needed because there was sufficient funding from other sources.

North-East MEP Stephen Hughes said there was an indication from Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton – who was at the latest meeting of the multi-agency group in Redcar yesterday – that the Government would revisit the issue.

He said: “It is a clear shift and I hope it leads to a positive outcome.”

Of the meeting, he said: “It was very positive. All the agencies have advanced plans in place should the worst happen and the plant close.

“However everyone is actively engaged in trying to find a buyer to keep the blast furnace open.”

Alan Clarke, the chief executive of development agency One North East, said of the support available: “Our aim is to give a tailor-made package of help to every worker who requires it.

“This includes a one-to-one assessment of their needs and current skills to identify the best options for them.

“They will be given benefits and tax advice and be able to speak to experts about starting up their own business."