‘I’m worried sick’: Scunthorpe frets over British Steel slump | Business


Workers at British Steel’s Scunthorpe site have expressed anger and frustration over the plant’s uncertain future with the company on the brink of administration.

As people filed out of the sprawling works after a shift change on Tuesday, one employeeof 18 years said: “I’m worried sick and absolutely petrified. I’ve got three kids at home. We don’t know anything, we only know what we’re finding out off the news.”

The Scunthorpe site employs more than 3,000 of British Steel’s 5,000-strong workforce.

Martin Foster, 57, the Unite trade union convenor for the plant in Lincolnshire, who has been employed by the steelworks for most of his life, said: “I came in this morning and was genuinely scared and angry. It just feels like we’ve been thrown to the wolves. You’ve got to remember, Scunthorpe as a town didn’t exist until this place was created. The town was built around the steelworks, not the other way round.”

Scunthorpe’s iron and steel industry has been a cornerstone of the area since the mid-19th century. In 1967 the works were consolidated and nationalised as part of the British Steel Corporation, and in 1988 they were privatised and became part of Corus and later Tata Steel. Greybull Capital, a private investment firm that specialises in buying up struggling businesses, took over in 2016, renaming the firm British Steel.

Most residents fear that losing the factory will not just mean the loss of thousands of jobs but will deal a serious blow to the entire town.

Celia Todd volunteers at the Well Cafe and comes from a family of steel workers.

Celia Todd volunteers at the Well Cafe and comes from a family of steel workers. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Celia Todd, 64, who marched with the steelworkers in 2015 when the factory faced financial difficulty, said: “It upsets me because I’ve lived in Scunthorpe all my life and I’ve seen people going into the steelworks as young boys and come out as men. Some of them have been in there since they left school. It’s going to be like a ghost town if it closes.”

The factory is a huge complex on the outskirts of the town centre and its towering chimneys can be seen for miles. Its presence is embedded into the lifeblood of the town – the central shopping arcade is named The Foundry in homage to it.