April 3, 2020 @ 16:36 by Steven Hugill
A steel operator has paused production at a North East plant after the coronavirus outbreak hit demand.
British Steel says work at its factory in Skinningrove, east Cleveland, is on hold for three weeks.
North East Times understands staff will be furloughed during the hiatus.
The company’s Teesside Beam Mill, near Redcar, and a smaller Darlington facility remain open.
British Steel’s Skinningrove plant forms an integral part of its special profiles business, with the site known for its work on heavy-duty equipment such as crane rails and track shoes.
Announcing the pause in production, Ron Deelen, British Steel chief executive, said: “The coronavirus is shaping how we all lead our daily lives and we’ve robust and flexible plans in place to protect our employees, customers, suppliers and the communities in which we operate.
“As we manage the internal and external challenges coronavirus brings, we’ll take decisive action to protect our people and our operations.
“Due to a fall in demand, we’ve paused production and operations at Skinningrove, initially for three weeks.
“(This is) a temporary measure in the face of difficult market conditions, and we’ll provide all the support our employees deserve and require.
“Our other sites continue to operate in line with Government guidance.”
The suspension comes just a month after British Steel was rescued by China’s Jingye Group, with the latter pledging a £1.2 billion investment to modernise operations.
Responding to the news of the suspension in production, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he was committed to ensuring the business built on the momentum of its recent takeover.
He said: “British Steel’s client book remains strong, but a slowdown in business as a result of the outbreak is the reason behind the pause as many of their clients have enough stock in place to last them for three months.
“Since May last year a huge number of people, including the trade unions, have worked tirelessly to secure the long-term future of British Steel, and this announcement should not distract from this huge achievement.
“My absolute priority remains Teesside workers and I will do everything I can to make sure they and their families get the support.”
British Steel’s sale came after the business – founded when Tata Steel sold its Long Products division to investor Greybull Capital – collapsed into compulsory liquidation last year.
As part of the restructure, a Blaydon-based metal centre, used by British Steel to offer customers access to products, as well as processing and service support, was sold to stockholder Barrett Steel.