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Tata Steel workers protest in Britain over sale plan

business Updated: May 25, 2016 23:48 IST

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A piper plays as he leads steel workers during a protest march against Tata Steel through central London on May 25, 2016. (AFP)

Hundreds of Tata Steel workers held a rare rally in central London on Thursday as the company’s board in Mumbai said it had yet to shortlist any bidders for the sale of its loss-making British assets.

Wearing safety helmets and Tata’s yellow jackets, protesters chanted the slogan “Save Our Steel!” as they marched past the Houses of Parliament.

“We want somebody who will invest in the industry, support the industry and preferably keep us together, keep the plants together,” Tony Pearson, who has worked in the sector since 1977, told AFP.

Indian Tata Steel is Britain’s biggest steel employer and the fate of around 12,000 jobs in Britain depends on a sale process it launched earlier this year.

British Business Secretary Sajid Javid held discussions with Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry on Tuesday, a day after a deadline passed for interested parties to submit bids to acquire the assets.

The company said on Wednesday it had yet to shortlist bidders out of the seven who have expressed interest.

Steel workers hold placards as they take part in a protest march through central London on May 25, 2016. Tata Steel, Britain's biggest steel employer, announced in March that it planned to sell its Port Talbot plant in Wales and other assets, putting 15,000 jobs at risk. (AFP)

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady also joined Wednesday’s protest.

“The workers are incredibly skilled... They must not be sent down the road, the industry must not be destroyed, and we will make sure it is not destroyed.”

O’Grady said Tata “owe it to the people that they’ve made such good profits out of to ensure that this is a responsible sale.

“It can’t be about asset stripping,” she said.

During a parliamentary debate, finance minister George Osborne said the government was “doing everything we can to help this industry in a very difficult time including making sure there’s tough tariffs on Chinese dumping”.

Tata Steel signalled its exit from Britain on March 30, blaming global oversupply of steel, cheap imports into Europe, high costs and currency volatility.

The government has said it will contribute hundreds of millions of pounds (euros, dollars) to any potential deal and take a 25 percent stake in the assets.