Steel giant SSI which owns the Redcar steel works in Teesside, north east England, went into liquidation on Friday of last week.
SSI has already announced 1,700 layoffs. Between SSI employees, contractors and the knock-on effect on the local economy, up to 9,000 jobs could go.
Ben Middleton works in a shop near the plant. He told Socialist Worker, “I’m worried for my job—a lot of our customers are steel workers. Nobody wants to think about it.”
The Tories announced a package of up to £80 million to help redundant steel workers re-train or start their own businesses.
Ben said, “Some half arsed scheme won’t help. There’s a real sense of anger at the government for not stepping in.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell visited workers on Monday of this week. He has called on the government to intervene and invest to keep production going.
The Tories say European Union rules stop them doing this.
But Ian Davies, a Community union rep at Tata Steel’s plant in Scunthorpe, told Socialist Worker, “That view stems from their unwillingness to help.
“In Italy the government bought out the whole steel industry. They could bail the banks out, so why not steel?”
A decline in steel prices is driving an industry crisis. But steel is needed.
Ian said, “There’s a million new homes need building, there’s talk of improving the rail network.
“But corporations are unwilling to invest in steel. The only real intervention that could have an effect now is by the state.”
Trade union leaders slammed the government’s inaction. But they haven’t turned their words into action.
If workers did take action they could count on widespread public support.
Ian said, “The unions could be putting much more pressure on the government, calling demonstrations.
“There’s clearly things workers can do.
“If unions argued seriously for an alternative—for government action and nationalisation—they could ballot over jobs.”