Within the last few weeks the Official Receiver of British Steel Scunthorpe has announced that Ataer Holdings, owned by Oyak - the Turkish armed forces pension fund, is to be the preferred bidder for the steel plant which went into compulsory liquidation in May.
It has been reported that Ataer Holdings has offered £70 million to buy the business, with the UK government set to provide a further £300 million as a handout to the company. They will now spend the next few weeks going through British Steel’s books before a final announcement is made.
As was expected there has been an unholy alliance of approval for this deal across the political spectrum. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has said that Ataer Holdings is a “suitable buyer” for the plant. Similarly, Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar and secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on steel, stated: “This is great news for British Steel and the thousands of workers and their families."
Unions have also welcomed the news, but are they raising false hopes?
Ataer Holding’s owner Oyak has already made clear that they intend on raising the productivity of the plant, not through investment, but most likely through huge job cuts. The existing workforce has been made redundant. There has been no agreement yet over potential manning levels, wages and terms and conditions under any new owner. The lack of a lead from the union side over this has been ominous. Oyak’s track record is not good - they have been accused of corruption and have a record of asset stripping and abusing workers’ rights.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary has said that it “is essential that Oyak submits its full plans for proper scrutiny by the steel unions and works closely with them to ensure the long-term future of British steel in the interests of the workers, not just shareholders.’’
However, Labour should go much further and support the position raised by Jeremy Corbyn of the nationalisation of British Steel “to secure the long term future of the steelworks and protect peoples’ livelihoods and communities.”
Labour should demand the immediate renationalisation not only of British Steel but the whole UK steel industry. Workers cannot rely on the vultures of private enterprise to save their jobs and industries. We must fight for a socialist Labour government committed to public ownership, not private profit.