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Axe falls again on steel jobs

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Issue 1707

Time to make a stand as

Axe falls again on steel jobs

“I JUST can’t see what future there is here. I think they are going to keep cutting and cutting and then they will close a big plant, and we’ll all be on the scrapheap unless somebody stands up and fights.”

That was what David, a steel worker at the Llanwern plant near Newport, told Socialist Worker about the latest job cuts in the industry. Corus steel bosses announced over 1,300 redundancies in Wales last week. It has now announced 4,400 job cuts in the last month.

The Llanwern plant loses 450 jobs and Port Talbot faces 400 job cuts. In the tin plate division over 300 jobs will go, split between Ebbw Vale and Trostre, near Llanelli. Another 150 jobs will be destroyed at smaller plants such as Tafarnaubach, Bryngwyn and Pontardulais.

The job cuts will devastate communities in Wales. At a special meeting on Monday in Cardiff the steel workers’ ISTC union said it is drawing “a ring of steel” around its decision to oppose any compulsory redundancies.

“Corus will find it hard to find volunteers in some plants,” said ISTC general secretary Michael Leahy. And he added, “If any of our branches or members refuse compulsory redundancy we will ballot for industrial action.”

The union is also demanding that Corus goes ahead with a crucial relining of a blast furnace at Llanwern. Failure to do this work would be a strong signal that the firm is preparing to shut the plant.

The steel unions should be demanding that Labour renationalises the industry. They should also launch an immediate campaign of demonstrations and strikes to stop the Corus bosses’ job cuts.

It’s not the euro

MOST REPORTS say Corus job losses are a result of losses due to the high level of the pound. But steel demand is rising and the pound is falling from its peak in May against the euro.

Corus has lost money recently. But this follows years of high profits-and the company expects to make a lot of money again soon. In 1998 British Steel (which merged with a Dutch company to form Corus) made 316 million.

Two years earlier the company was racking up profits of over 1 billion a year. Last month Corus announced that in the three months to April 2000 it had actually made a profit of 23 million. John Bryant, one of Corus’s chief executives, said the whole of the steel industry was subject to “improving trends in demand and prices”.

According to the Financial Times, “The company is forecast by analysts to deliver a 150 million pre-tax profit for the 2000 calendar year followed by 750 million for 2001.”

‘We have a right to work’

STEEL WORKERS led an angry demonstration of 1,000 people against job losses through Workington in Cumbria last Saturday. Threatened job losses at the local Corus steel plant could have a devastating effect in the town.

“Our infrastructure is shattered. We are losing jobs. Something has to be done,” said Brian Cottier, chair of the local council’s Labour group. A local steel worker who had helped organise the demonstration addressed the rally. He told demonstrators, “We are human beings and we have human rights, and one of those rights is the right to work.” Local Labour MP Dale Campbell-Savours also addressed the rally and said the problems in British industry stemmed from the fact that Britain was not yet signed up to the euro.

But many demonstrators wanted New Labour to directly intervene to save jobs. Stephen Pearson, a steel worker from Teesside, said, “It’s time for the government to renationalise the steel industry, otherwise we won’t have a steel industry left.”

Yet more workers sacked

  • Textile firm Courtaulds is threatening to close its main British factory in Worksop and a buying operation in Heanor, both in Nottinghamshire. Over 600 jobs are at stake
  • Pearson, owner of Penguin books and the Financial Times, has dismissed 13,000 people from Dorling Kindersley, the business it bought for 311 million in April.
  • Engineering employers say a third of companies expect to make redundancies over the coming 12 months.

Moffat’s money

CORUS CHAIRMAN Sir Brian Moffat collected a basic salary of 477,223 last year. He also grabbed benefits of 43,009, bringing the total to 520,362. The company fattened his pension fund by 19,709 during the year, bringing his accumulated pension fund to 336,262. Moffat also has options to take a big profit on some 611,000 shares.

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