STEEL WORKERS at Corus plants across Britain were waiting anxiously at the start of this week to find out if their jobs were for the chop. The Anglo-Dutch company Corus had told its workforce that up to 4,000 jobs would go as part of a 'restructuring package' to boost profits.
That is on top of over 10,000 jobs that have gone over the last two years. As they waited to find out their fate, steel workers were outraged to hear that Tony Peddar, Corus's failed chief executive, was getting a payoff of at least £550,000 as his reward for slashing thousands of jobs. This is nothing new.
When John Bryant and Fokko van Duyne were axed as co chief executives two years ago they were paid off with more than £2 million. Terry, a Port Talbot steel worker, told Socialist Worker, 'Peddar was the man who went round South Wales eyeing up the plants for closure last time. He laid the basis for the closure of Ebbw Vale and ending steel production at Llanwern. I'm glad he's gone, but I don't see why he should get 25 times a steel worker's redundancy money for his butchery. Now they're bringing back Sir Brian Moffatt to head the company. He was in charge when Corus was formed and it's been a disaster ever since.'
Some reports indicated that Corus might close one of its three major plants - Port Talbot, Scunthorpe or the Teesside plant at Redcar. Other commentators predicted that the firm might cut a swathe through the smaller plants. Whichever option they choose, it means steel workers taking the rap. In previous years Corus's forerunner British Steel made huge profits, money that was thrown at shareholders who collected nearly £700 million when Corus was formed in 1999.
Why should workers be put through the wringer now? Alan, a Teesside steel worker, told Socialist Worker, 'It's been excruciating waiting for the news. 'If my job goes then I know I'll never get another on the same money or anything like it round here. And I'm over 40 so maybe there will be nothing at all. We've worked our guts out for Corus. Whenever they have demanded a new productivity record we have met and surpassed what they demanded. Not that it has done us any good.'
The main steel trade union, the ISTC, has condemned Corus's plans and pledged that workers will 'not go quietly'. That has to be turned into action to rock Corus and increase the sense of political crisis that can force the government to intervene.