Socialist Worker

Steel workers in ‘fight for their lives’ over Tata cuts

by Dave Sewell in Scunthorpe
Issue No. 2477

Campaigning in Scunthorpe last Saturday

Campaigning in Scunthorpe last Saturday (Pic: Socialist Worker )


Furious steel workers are calling for support in their fight against closures and job losses.

Around 40 workers and supporters in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, were out gathering signatures for their petition last Saturday. 

Tata Steel plans to cut 900 jobs at the town’s enormous steel works, closing its plate mill and one of two coking ovens. 

Matt Daly works at the blast furnace. He told Socialist Worker, “I’ve never had much faith in what politicians say. 

“But this time they’re not even talking a good fight, not even pretending to care.”

Steel worker David Wyner added, “The knock-on effect could cost 30,000 jobs. Without steel, Scunthorpe will be a ghost town.” 

Another 270 jobs are to go at the Dalzell and Clydebridge sites in Lanarkshire as Tata “mothballs” the last of Scotland’s steel industry.

Tata has already cut 700 jobs this year in Rotherham and South Wales, and refuses to commit to keeping the Scunthorpe works running long term.

Charlotte Upton, Unite union rep in the plate mill in Scunthorpe, said “Even workers who haven’t been so vocal before know this is a fight for their lives. 

“The community has really got behind us and said it’s a fight for the whole town.” 

Retail worker Wendy Barley said, “There’ll be an increase in suicides in this town if these jobs go—it’s disgusting. 

“If there’s a strike, a protest, an uprising, we’ll need to unite behind it.”

After years of under-investment, steel works in Britain struggle to compete with cheap imports—particularly as China’s economic slowdown has seen global demand plummet. But its products are still needed.

Community union member Paul works in the threatened plate mill. He told Socialist Worker, “Everything relies on steel—your washing machine, your car, the hinges on your door. 

Excuses 

“Where will that come from without us?”

The government’s excuses only make workers angrier.

Paul said, “I feel let down. What really rankles is that at the same time as blaming China, the government is kissing the Chinese president’s arse. I actually shouted at the TV.

Tory grandee Michael Heseltine rubbed salt in the wound saying “if you are going to lose your job this is probably a good a time” because there are so many “exciting” new jobs.

The government announced funding for training courses for unemployed people. But steel worker Phil said, “Better to keep the jobs they’ve got than pretend they’ll all get hired by Costa Coffee.”

Local resident Max had made a banner calling for jobs to be saved. He said, “We’ve got to fight for every job. Whatever happens next I hope it’s an escalation.” 

The unions demand subsidies or tax breaks to lift bosses’ profits, and import controls to keep out Chinese steel. These won’t solve the crisis, and divert anger in the wrong direction.

Instead many workers argue that if the government bailed out banks, it should also save the steel industry.

At a trades council meeting in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, last week, 50 trade unionists pledged to back any action steel workers take. Their statement is picking up support online.

Officials from the GMB and Community unions both told Socialist Worker they hoped to build a national demonstration. 

GMB organiser Shaune Clarkson said, “We can’t let this town go under, we can’t stand by as another industry dies—we’ve got to fight for it.”

Workers plan a mass meeting on Tuesday 10 November, followed by a march on the Tory council’s meeting. 

Matt called for support. He said, “What’s going to make the difference is the amount of people involved—it’s about strength in numbers.”


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.