May 6, 2010 3:00 am
Kirby Adams, chief executive of Corus, has hit back at union criticism of his management style, while reiterating that the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker has not given up its effort to find a buyer for its Teesside plant in north-east England.
"I am a straight shooter, I don't sugarcoat and I might irritate some people," Mr Adams said. "If this is what some people might call 'adversarial' then it seems to me that this could be a compliment."
Mr Adams has been involved with a long-running row with Michael Leahy, general secretary of the Community steel union, mainly over the decision by Corus to partly close its Teesside factory, throwing into jeopardy 1,700 jobs.
Mr Leahy said Mr Adams had an "over-adversarial style", did not understand the normal processes for handling relationships between businesses and unions in Europe, and had presided over the "worst period" for industrial relations at the steelmaker for 45 years.
But Mr Adams said Corus, owned by Tata Steel of India, was in contact with "a few businesses that have made serious inquiries" over a deal for the site. "We are making a serious effort to find a long-term solution for the Teesside plant and for anyone to suggest otherwise is not true."
Mr Adams took over as Corus chief executive in March 2009, having never before worked in Europe.
During the first nine months of last year Corus had losses before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $1bn (£662m) , but returned to profit in each of the most recent quarters. Since the beginning of last year it has cut 5,000 jobs.
Commenting on whether industrial relations at Corus were in a parlous state, Mr Adams said when he talked to plant workers at Corus he received a "lot of positive feedback".
"I've gained the sense that people feel a lot of pride that by putting their hands to the shovel they have helped the company to move a long way out of its financial difficulties."
Corus shut down parts of the Teesside plant this year after an Italian-led consortium pulled out of a deal to acquire the site .
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