A STEELWORKS in the heart of Newport is set to make 72 jobs redundant as Brexit uncertainty and the state of the UK steel industry bites.

Liberty Steel made the announcement this morning following a meeting with staff at the site, on the banks of the River Usk.

The losses are part of 355 job cuts by Liberty Steel in South Yorkshire and South Wales after a review of its UK business in response to "challenging market conditions and a lingering reduction in demand for UK steel products".

Michael Perry, finance and commercial director of Liberty Steel in Newport, said the firm was committed to a long-term future of steel production in Newport, but the cyclical nature of the steel market meant cost savings needed to be made to ensure that future.

He said the 72 jobs would be made redundant and workers would have the choice of taking an enhanced voluntary redundancy package or could move to a newly-set up business - GFG Workforce Solutions - which would see them staying on full pay and carrying out agency work for up to 40 hours a week.

GFG Workforce Solutions has been set up specially by Liberty's owner Sanjeev Gupta to offset the impact of the redundancies across the group.


Mr Perry said Mr Gupta, who lives in Monmouthshire, had originally bought the Newport Liberty plant in 2013 and kept the staff on 50 per cent pay for two years until the site was ready to restart.

He said: "This is a family-run company and we have had to make these changes to remain competitive."

Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, said: "Once again we have more bad news for the UK steel industry. A country that doesn't produce it's own steel for key infrastructure projects and shipbuilding is a county that's destined to fail.

"Our steelworkers deserve better than this. The government urgently needs to intervene and ensure steel companies in the UK receive the backing they have long called for on energy costs and business rates.

"GMB will of course engage with the company to mitigate any losses for our members and will continue to campaign with our sister steel trade unions to bring about the support and investment required."

The Newport plant was a previously mothballed site bought by Liberty in 2013, where it resumed production in 2015.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, said the job cuts are "concerning" and he called once more on the government to meet unions and employers in the industry "to discuss action on the outstanding issues which we have been campaigning on for some time, such as energy costs, business rates and procurement".

“We will be sitting down with Liberty Steel to look at their plans in detail and examine the rationale behind these proposals," said Mr Rickhuss.

"In the meantime, we recognise that the company has indicated its intention to achieve any reductions through voluntary redundancy - we will be holding them to that commitment.”

Newport East AM John Griffiths said his thoughts are with the workforce and their families.

"I am in touch with both the company and the trade unions to ensure the steel workers affected are supported through this difficult time," he said.

"This is even more frustrating news for the steel sector in Newport following the mothballing of Orb by Tata.

"It is now more vital than ever that we see decisive action from the UK Government to support our steel industry.

"This new Tory Government must act quickly to secure a steel sector deal and I will continue to call for effective action to protect jobs,  communities and the British steel industry for years to come."

Newport East MPO Jessica Morden echoed Mr Griffiths' comments, calling the announcement "more bad news for the steel industry, coming on top of Tata’s closure of Orb".

"My colleagues and I on the All Party Steel Group have been calling for a steel sector deal as part of an industrial strategy, and this is even more evidence if it was needed that this new Tory Government has to get to grips with what is happening, and ensure action is taken to save our steel industry before it is too late," she said.

Shadow Minister for the Economy in Wales Russell George AM, said: "This is of course a deeply worrying time for the employees and their families at the plant in Newport, and at the larger operation in South Yorkshire.

“The ‘challenging market conditions’ cited by Liberty are all too well known to the steelworkers in Wales, and Welsh Conservatives are committed to ensuring sustainable steel production in Wales, and one that is a competitive steel industry fit for the 21st century.”