Socialist Worker

Steel workers take to the streets to demand action

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2479

Steel workers and supporters on the march

Steel workers and supporters on the march (Pic: Neil Terry)


Over 2,000 steel workers and supporters marched through Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, on Tuesday of this week chanting, “Save our steel”.

Many blamed the Tories for letting their industry and their jobs go to the wall.

Steel worker James told Socialist Worker, “A lot of things have happened but the blame stops with the government—the problem is they only care about profit.”

Tata Steel plans to cut 900 jobs in Scunthorpe, closing its plate mill and one of its coke ovens.

Scunthorpe coke oven worker Paul said his life was “all up in the air” with redundancy expected before Christmas. He added, “What I like about this protest is we’re getting support from all over Britain, not just Scunthorpe—I’ve not seen that before.”

Many families in Scunthorpe have relatives in the steelworks.

Neil Lawton said his son was set to lose his job on 18 December. “He took out a mortgage this year and has just had a baby daughter,” Neil said. “If we don’t do things like this march the bosses will walk all over us.”

Another 270 jobs are to go at two Tata sites in Lanarkshire. Up to 400 marched in Motherwell last Saturday in the pouring rain to call on the Scottish government to find a buyer and save jobs.

EIS union members from the local college and engineers from Rolls Royce marched with steel workers. Labour and Scottish National Party MPs and MSPs joined them.

In a statement this week Tata strongly hinted it could close its long products division if it doesn’t find a buyer by March next year.

Double

“That would be game over for Scunthorpe,” said James. Contractor Antony warned that the real job losses would be double those announced once contractors were counted, and more still with the knock on effect to other firms.

The march was a sea of Unite, GMB and Community union flags and placards, with a handful of banners from other unions in the region.

But workers were joined by supporters from all walks of life.

Carer Mary, unemployed Barry and hotel worker Chris all said the same thing. In Chris’s words, “If steel goes down so does the town.”

Youth worker Vicky said, “There’s already been massive cuts to services for young people. If the steelworks go it will force young people out of the town.”

As the march went through town people came out of their workplaces to applaud.

Labour MP Nic Dakin told the steel workers’ rally this showed “the community is on our side”.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke urged workers to “keep fighting” and warned that “temporary nationalisation” could be necessary.

Unions are calling for cuts to business rates and energy cuts, for the government to buy British steel for its infrastructure projects and import controls against Chinese steel.

But import controls focus on the wrong enemy. Labour MP John Mann took this to its absurd conclusion warning that the next generation in Britain would be “slaves to China”.

Cost cutting measures to boost bosses’ profits can seem like an alternative. But as Tata revealed last week even in the depth of its crisis it is making £300 million profit.

SSI, which closed Redcar steel, managed to swindle workers out of government funds aimed to help them cope with losing their jobs.

The cash hasn’t stopped them ransacking jobs. Only action can do that.

Join protests against the steel closures.

Lanarkshire—March For Jobs, Sunday 15 November, 1pm, Brandon Parade, Motherwell

Yorkshire—Rally For Steel, Saturday 21 November, 2-5pm, Sheffield City Hall, Barkers Pool, Sheffield


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