More than a thousand jobs could be saved if prime minister secures new owner for plant

More than a thousand jobs at Corus steelworks could now be saved after the prime minister revealed that the government was in talks with a number of companies interested in the plant.

Union leaders had threatened to take industrial action to try and save 1,600 jobs at the plant on Teeside, which is due to be partially mothballed.

The Community union said it was preparing to ballot its members, and the GMB added that it was also considering action.

Gordon Brown said he had spoken with Corus’s Indian parent company, Tata Steel Group, as well as with the head of the Corus European options. He said: “We are still trying to find new owners for the site. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes.”

Trade unions welcomed the prime minister’s intervention, but others warned it was falsely raising workers’ hopes as Corus has been trying to find a buyer without success for the past 10 months.

Brown blamed falling global demand for steel, a decrease in prices in addition to an international consortium which had pulled out of a deal to purchase the plant’s output.

Speaking before a meeting of the cabinet in Durham, the prime minister said: “I understand the frustration that people feel. There are wonderful workers at Corus. This is a good company, this is not a company that should be going under but we have a problem.”