Defiant business leaders claim Tata job losses will not derail Teesside’s manufacturing recovery. Jez Davison reports.
TWO months ago Teesside rejoiced when SSI finally completed the takeover of the Tata steelmaking plant in Redcar.
The deal was the culmination of a year-long fight to revive the local steel industry and came just weeks after Hitachi announced a major train building scheme at Newton Aycliffe.
The two developments, which will create more than 1,300 permanent jobs, have sparked talk of a manufacturing-led economic revival on Teesside.
But hopes of a sustained recovery were dealt a thumping blow last week as Tata Steel, one of the North-east’s biggest employers, announced plans to axe 390 jobs from its Teesside operations.
Its long products operations at Lackenby and Skinningrove, from which 300 jobs could go, have suffered from a massive downturn in infrastructure investment and construction activity.
And its Hartlepool pipe and tube-making site, which plans to shed 90 staff, has suffered from a dearth of project work from oil, gas and energy customers.
Business leaders expressed surprise at the job losses, coming so soon after the morale-boosting SSI and Hitachi announcements.
But they said the bleak news would not trigger another manufacturing decline on Teesside.
Alastair Thomson, North-east chairman of the Institute of Directors, said: “When you look at the history of economic recoveries there tends to be a trend of two steps forward and one back.
“Nothing ever goes in a straight line.
“The supply chain will be suffering but at least it has happened at a time when the market is generally looking up.”
He highlighted the Hitachi and SSI announcements as evidence that Teesside manufacturing was heading in the right direction.
Car parts maker Nifco UK is also creating jobs after investing in a new £8.5m factory in Stockton.