Corus 'to axe thousands of jobs'

Steelmaker Corus is to cut up to 3,500 jobs in one of the biggest blows yet to the faltering manufacturing sector.

The Anglo-Dutch company, which employs 24,000 people in the UK and has steelmaking operations at Port Talbot, Scunthorpe and Teesside, has been rocked by the paralysis gripping two of its main markets - construction and car manufacturing.

The Sunday Times said union leaders were in last-ditch talks with the government in an attempt to fend off some of the job cuts.

They have pressed ministers to adopt a system offered by the Dutch government where the state makes up the pay of workers put on short working weeks.

Corus is Europe's second-largest steelmaker and the ninth largest in the world. It was formed a decade ago from the merger of British Steel and Dutch firm Hoogovens. Two years ago it was bought by Tata Steel, sister company of Tata Motors, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, for £6.7bn.

Jaguar Land Rover is also understood to be considering another 1,500 layoffs, according to the newspaper.

The report said the Corus job cuts were not expected to lead to the closure of any large sites.

Corus management had planned to restructure the business gradually, but the plan has been accelerated by the crisis in the world steel industry. Steel prices, which had been driven to record highs by demand from China, have more than halved in the last year.

Corus faces strong competition from rivals in India and Brazil, although it has benefited from the efficiency of its Dutch plants and the improved performance of its operations in the UK.

The changes have been drawn up by chief executive Philippe Varin, who is due to leave the business in April following six years at the helm.

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