Socialist Worker

Union leaders must build a bigger fight to save steel jobs

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2480

Marching in Scunthorpe against Tata layoffs earlier this month

Marching in Scunthorpe against Tata layoffs earlier this month (Pic: Neil Terry)


As steel unions prepared for a mass rally against job losses in Sheffield this Saturday bosses warned of deeper cuts.

Job losses at Tata plants in Lanarkshire and Lincolnshire will bring the sackings this year to 5,000—around a fifth of the total steel industry.

But Tata is also looking to dump its whole “long products” division.

And Wolfgang Eder, head of the bosses’ World Steel Association said last week years of job cuts across Europe were “inevitable”—with or without subsidies.

He called for the European steel capacity to be halved. If the workforce is cut at the same rate it would mean around 165,000 job losses.

Areas hit by steel job losses have seen more layoffs.

In Teesside another 360 jobs are being cut at a Potash mine and 700 from tax office closures.

It comes after the devastating closures of nearby Redcar steel works last month, followed by scrapping a project to build a power plant.

North Lanarkshire Council is also axing 1,500 jobs. About 200 people marched last Sunday through Motherwell protesting against job losses at Tata Steel and the council.

The march ended at a rally at Motherwell Civic Centre with speakers from Unison, CWU and EIS unions.

One steel worker, aged 53, who has worked for 37 years in the industry asked who was going to employ him now.

Vulnerable

Michelle Gibb, a home carer, said home carers are to be privatised. She thinks vulnerable people will be left sitting at home, with no one speaking up for them.

“Councils have invested years of training in their staff. All that is now going down the drain,” she said.

Michelle was critical of news the Scottish government has underspent by £350 million.

She said, “Its not just North Lanarkshire Council, it’s the Scottish Government. Its time they stood up. If they can’t deliver—get out!”

Sunday’s march follows big marches in Motherwell and Scunthorpe earlier this month.

Unions could count on immense goodwill if they led a fight.

They could mobilise tens of thousands of people for a national protest.

But their demands have focused on measures to boost bosses’ profits in the aim of creating a “level playing field” to compete against foreign rivals.

In reality steel bosses worldwide hope to make cuts to address “overcapacity” as China’s economy slows down.

And these cuts are going ahead despite even crisis-hit Tata still raking in profits.

These jobs are needed and so is the steel they produce.

If private bosses cut them the steel industry must be nationalised.

Thanks to Alan Thomson


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