Unite the Union has called on the government to set out a target for the use of domestic steel in the construction of HS2.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said using more UK steel on the £98bn megaproject was “economic common sense”. She added: “The government must immediately develop clear targets on UK steel usage on publicly funded construction projects. In the case of HS2, UK producers should have a paramount place in producing steel for the project.”
Unite’s intervention comes after transport minister Andrew Stephenson confirmed in December 2021 that there was “no formal target” for HS2’s use of UK steel. Nevertheless, he added: “HS2 Ltd are working with the UK steel industry to ensure it is engaged, informed and prepared to seize the contract opportunities that will be generated by the construction of HS2.”
Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel said steelworkers would be “alarmed and fearful” of the absence of targets. He added: “Steel is a key foundation industry, and it is absolutely essential that it receives practical support from the government. That should start with ensuring that government-funded projects always purchase UK steel whenever possible.”
In October 2021, it was revealed that HS2 sourced pre-assembled steel reinforcements from a French fabricator called Sendin, a move that was criticised by the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR). HS2 stood by its decision and said that a suitable UK supplier had not been found. Soon after, it was alleged that two more French fabricators were in discussion for contracts with HS2.
Last year, steel products saw steep inflationary pressures, with some products seeing prices go up 75 per cent in a year.
Addressing the latest concerns raised by Unite, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The government and HS2 Ltd have engaged extensively with the British steel industry over the last five years to ensure that it is in the best possible position to compete for contracts.”