HOPES were fading for more than 1,000 North-East steel jobs last night after Corus said it had plunged more than £1bn into the red.

Managers said a rescue plan put forward by the unions to save the doomed coil plate mill at Redcar was unrealistic.

The news will come as a bitter blow to steelworkers who had hoped the union plan would prevent more than 1,100 job losses.

The Anglo Dutch firm announced plans last month to axe 1,100 jobs on Teesside, including the complete closure of the coil plate mill, which would bring an end to Teesside's 160-year-old integrated steel industry.

The move is part of a nationwide shake-up that will include 6,000 redundancies in the wake of massive losses.

The extent of those losses was revealed yesterday when the group admitted it had lost £1.15bn in the 15 months to December 30.

A spokesman dismissed the union's alternative plan - which would spare the redundancies on Teesside - as "offering no realistic alternative to our business plan announced on February 1".

The unions are developing another rescue package, which they hope will be accepted by the company when the two sides meet next week.

Steelworker Matthew Lodge, who works in the coil plate mill, said: "I don't think they are going to save the mill, and all the hierarchy are saying that.

"Corus is playing for time and is trying to distance itself from the initial outcry in the hope that everyone will have forgotten about it."

Dr Ashok Kumar, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: "I am not surprised by what is happening. No one can blame the unions for trying."

There was better news for workers at Hartlepool and Tyneside yesterday when the Prime Minister announced hundreds of jobs as part of a £300m project to build an oil and gas production platform at the Amec yard, on Tyneside.

As revealed in the Northern Echo yesterday, Tony Blair travelled to the Wallsend yard to formally announce the largest overseas offshore contract for the Amec yard.

The company will build the equipment for a 17,000-tonne floating production storage and offloading vessel, creating work for electrical and mechanical engineers, welders, pipe fitters, electricians and other skilled engineering professions.

The deal will create 1,000 jobs on Tyneside and up to 750 at the Hereema yard in Hartlepool.

Another 1,600 jobs are expected to be created in small and medium-sized contractors and suppliers across the UK, and a further 300 jobs in London in engineering and project management