By Phil Turner
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 333

Recession report from Rotherham

This article is over 13 years, 6 months old
"We're not getting the same help we would be getting if we were wearing bowler hats instead of hard hats. It's one thing for the banks and another for us."
Issue 333

The words of one steel union official summed up the anger as steel giant Corus announced that 700 jobs – more than half the workforce – were to go at its huge Aldwarke plant in Rotherham.

Workers arrived for their Monday morning shifts fearing the worst after a leaked TV news story the previous day ushered in the blackest day for the town in years. The steel meltdown revealed the brutal reality of the economic crisis in northern industrial towns like Rotherham.

In just seven days 1,000 jobs were threatened with being wiped out. A week before – and less than half a mile away – 170 workers at luxury clothing firm Burberry heard in TV and radio broadcasts that bosses wanted to close their factory. The workforce, mainly women, had no idea of what was about to happen until the early morning news bulletins. Some found out when other workers shouted to them as they walked to the factory gates.

Bosses show contempt for workers, who are expected to pay for their employers’ greed. One shop steward said: “I heard I was losing my job on GMTV this morning. I went ballistic. I think it is appalling.

“We are angry and disgusted that we should be told we were losing our jobs through news broadcasts. There has been no consultation about what was going to happen. This is a good workforce and we feel angry and upset at being stabbed in the back.”

Thousands more jobs are threatened by the knock-on effect. As many as 50,000 people depend on steel jobs.

The number of people out of work in South Yorkshire has risen by almost 2,600 over the last month, according to the latest government figures – up by almost 11,500 on January 2008. The number out of work in Rotherham is up by 580 at 6,172 – an increase of 2,610 or 42 percent on January 2008. And the figures exclude the latest casualties.

Rotherham’s older generation talk about there being nothing left for “the young ones” and it is easy to see why. Low paid jobs in call centres often seem to be all that is on offer.

Curtain store Rosebys, which was based in Rotherham, was an early victim of the economic slump, and other closures and job cuts have followed. Many shops and pubs are boarded up and closing. Some fear the jobs slaughter could kill the town.

Since the heyday when 25,000 steel workers were employed in Rotherham back in the 1950s and 1960s, numbers have declined to a few hundred. In the 1980s Rotherham still had around 10,000 working in steel and the same in the pits, but Margaret Thatcher put paid to all that – though not without a fight.

Only one colliery survived the Tory pit closures of the 1990s. Mining villages have been turned into wastelands of social deprivation.

Rotherham was the centre of militancy during the steel strike nearly 30 years ago and the miners’ strike 25 years ago. That fighting spirit needs rekindling quickly.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance