SSI Redcar: 2,000 steelworkers await news from Thai owners

SSI Redcar Image copyright PA
Image caption Unions have said there is only enough raw material on the SSI Redcar site to keep the coke ovens burning until Friday

The Thai parent company of a threatened Teesside steel plant has been criticised for its "deafening silence".

Teesside steel firm SSI has suspended production at its Redcar blast furnace, blaming rising costs and a slump in demand.

Unite union branch secretary Kevin Cook said there was only enough coal to keep the coke ovens burning until Friday.

SSI has declined requests for comment and unions said they had not been told what a "pause" in production meant.

Community union chairman Paul Warren said it was "torture" for the almost 2,000 workers.

"We're getting no answers and no information," he said.

"We really, really need SSI Thailand to come forward to let us know what's going on."

He said that although the unions' relationship with the firm's UK board was good, from Thailand the "silence is just deafening".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Thai company took over the former Tata Steel complex after it was mothballed in 2010.

Contractors have been seen withdrawing what they own from the site.

Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley said there was "serious risk that the site is in jeopardy".

"We've been desperately looking for an injection of cash, some support from government but, more than that, just the commitment from SSI in Thailand to say that they believe in the future of this site," she said.

Workers were looking to the government and its support for a Northern Powerhouse to see "if they put their money where their mouth is", she said.

Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton said the situation was "incredibly serious" and the government had an "open dialogue" with SSI in the UK and Thailand.

"I don't want to sugar coat what is a very difficult period and difficult decisions that could still be to come," he said.

The Redcar plant can produce up to 400 slabs of steel a day, each weighing up to 33 tonnes.

About £1bn was invested in reopening the blast furnace.

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