The UK Steel Industry was rocked yesterday by the announcement of 1500 job cuts in its Long Products Business. All of these cuts are to be in the North of England with 300 coming from Teesside, Hartlepool and Skinningrove.
Teesside has only recently breathed a sigh of relief with the sale of part of the Redcar steel plant to Thailand steel company SSI. This sale came after a major campaign by the unions who had to issue a strike threat just to get TATA Steel to talk to prospective buyers. Now the area will be subject to further uncertainty surrounding the future of workers’ jobs.
However the biggest devastation is occurring at Scunthorpe where 1200 jobs are set to be cut and the Queen Bess Blast Furnace being mothballed after 73 years of production. Also set to close is the Bloom and Billet mill.The promise of over £400m of investment in the business is welcome but this investment has obviously come at a price for those that will lose their livelihoods. It is a pity that this investment was not forthcoming when the record profits were being achieved, profits that Long Products contributed significantly to.
The lack of demand for its product is being blamed with very little demand in the construction industry which is one of the main customers for the Long Products part of TATA Steel.
This proves that the public sector cuts and lack of growth in the UK economy are beginning to take effect in the private sector.Sustainable growth will only be achieved by investment in the UK infrastructure to create a demand for the products of the Steel Industry and UK Manufacturing. Instead of cutting back we need a Government that is prepared to stimulate the economy and provide jobs for the UK workforce. The blame for these job losses lies at the door of the Con-Dem Government not the workers in the Steel Industry who now face an uncertain future.
Historically job losses in UK Steel have been accepted due to enough people wanting Voluntary redundancy but this acceptance cannot and should not continue. Unite needs to start punching its weight in the Steel Industry and begin organise the members. We must build workplace organisation, engage with the membership and encourage them to take ownership of their union. Then and only then will they realise that these jobs are not theirs to sell.