Socialist Worker

Steel workers feel a new sense of power—but will union leaders use it?

Issue No. 1930

A PAY strike by a key group of steel workers which would shut steel plants across South Yorkshire hangs in the balance.

An indefinite strike by 200 steel billet handlers working for Multiserve had been due to start on Tuesday this week.

But an improved offer was accepted by some workers—belonging to the ISTC, TGWU and Amicus unions.

Workers in the GMB union—who voted 100 percent for a strike in a ballot—refused to agree to the deal but have suspended their action for a week.

They will meet again on Monday to hear a report from union officials.

Feelings are running high after six years waiting for a pay rise following a five-year pay freeze.

Billet workers—who feed scrap metal into furnaces and dispatch steel orders—are demanding a decent rise.

“We haven’t got what we wanted and the mood is still for a strike,” said one worker in the GMB.

The strike threat forced bosses to offer workers extra money on the basic rate.

But it will mostly be paid for through bonus payments being consolidated.

The offer is backdated to February—resulting in some workers receiving £6,000 back pay.

Anger has been growing as pay talks dragged on for nearly a year following the pay freeze.

Many workers are paid just £4.69 an hour—below the minimum wage—when not getting their bonus while on holiday or off sick.

Workers wanted £2.50 an hour rise. Management originally offered 12p.

A strike would paralyse steel plants owned by Corus—which last week got into the list of the top performing firms after soaring profits.

It wold also hit plants owned by Outokompu (formerly Avesta).

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Sat 4 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1930
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