How we have coped with the pandemic
The unprecedented and unforeseen nature of this crisis has proved an enormous challenge but LIBERTY Steel Group’s various sites across the globe have successfully adapted their operations to this new environment.
When the pandemic took hold in March, the safety of our employees was – as it always is – the foremost of our concerns. Steps were taken promptly to prohibit all business travel, close sites to visitors, and communicate advice regularly to employees on how best to protect themselves from infection and what employees should do if they develop symptoms.
Where possible and required to do so, LIBERTY Steel Group’s employees have worked from home and we have put in place measures to ensure they remain connected, safe and informed. Although the world is still in the grip of the pandemic, we have managed to contain known Covid-19 infections to 35 out of a global workforce of 35,000 across GFG Alliance businesses.
While our employees’ safety is paramount, we remain committed to serving our customers, especially those that have a vital role to play in managing the response to the virus, providing materials for medical equipment and food packaging, for example.
Production has been adjusted on a plant-by-plant basis in response to customer demand. While a handful of sites in the UK, Italy and the Benelux countries had to close temporarily – because customers stopped operating, or because lockdown requirements made operations impossible –
most have continued to operate at some level throughout the crisis. We have adhered closely to safety advice from governments and will continue to do so as demand picks up and employees return to sites.
How the future looks
Support from national governments through temporary unemployment payment schemes and business interruption loans has been critical to helping our business along with many others through the crisis.
It is vital governments continue to support the steel industry as the global economy stirs back into life in the second half of the year. Recovery this time could be a slower process compared with previous economic downturns as our freedom to stimulate growth could be constrained by continued restrictions on activity until a vaccine or effective treatment is discovered.
While demand and prices may remain subdued in the short term, many of our sites operate in domestic markets and we are optimistic that governments see industrial revival facilitated by national infrastructure programmes as critical to the overall economic recovery.
However, support needs to be strategic to ensure that the steel industry can operate fit for the 21st Century. That means producing steel in a low-emission, sustainable manner, utilising renewable energy to power electric arc furnaces for steel recycling or new hydrogen technologies for primary steel production.