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From: The Socialist issue 876, 29 October 2015: Unite to fight divided Tories

Search site for keywords: Scunthorpe - Jobs - Steel - Nationalisation - Trade unions - Scotland

Steel industry and the battle for jobs

The massive job cuts and plant closures in the UK's steel industry reflect the underlying fragility of the capitalist world economy. But workers and the affected communities don't have to accept the inevitability of cutbacks. Through the trade unions a fightback can be organised which puts centre stage the need for nationalisation of the industry and a socialist plan of production.

Socialist Party members have been campaigning to pull together a fighting working class response.

A community facing an uncertain future

Rob Parrish, Socialist Party Scunthorpe

I've been hard at work campaigning in support of the Tata steel workers in Scunthorpe who are facing job losses.

Scunthorpe already has a high level of unemployment so the 1,200 job cuts between the steel plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire could be the death knell for our community.

Fortunately the community has come out to support the faltering steel industry with demos, posters in every shop window, and banners at football games reading: "Save Our Steel".

The Tory leader of North Lincolnshire Council has welcomed her government's promised 9 million to 'retrain' former steel workers. But retraining them for what? 9 million for the redevelopment of a post-industrial town like Scunthorpe, is nothing.

I've been in Scunthorpe's town centre collecting signatures for a Stand Up For Steel petition. Someone asked me who I blame for the steel crisis, I told him that I blamed the system and the constant drive to chase after profit. He told me he didn't think much of Labour as an alternative to the Tories.

On the first Saturday I petitioned there were a lot of steelworkers who came out to join us and some bought their families along.

The second Saturday seemed to consist more of activists than workers. Charlotte Upton, a steelworker and Unite union rep who has been in negotiations, urged people to chant "Save our Steel"!

A rep of the train drivers' union Aslef talked about the ramifications of job losses on other industries. Local Labour MP Nic Dakin turned out to show his support.

Other activists discussed the need to bring the steel industry back under public ownership, a suggestion which was met with applause from the crowd.

On Thursday 22 October me and two other Socialist party members from Sheffield set up a Socialist Party stall. I have never seen a stall so busy. We had to go back to the car to pick up more copies of the Socialist as we kept selling out.

Our petition, which was more specifically about nationalising the steel industry, received a lot of support.

Following the stall we then gave out Socialist Party leaflets to steelworkers coming off shift calling for nationalisation of the steel industry.

Solidarity with those fighting to keep their jobs in Scunthorpe, Lanarkshire and Redcar.

Workers' action and nationalisation needed

Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland

The Socialist Party Scotland's campaign for nationalisation of the steel industry, in the wake of the threatened closure of steelworks in Motherwell (Dalzell) and Cambuslang (Clydebridge), has received a massive response from the affected working class communities.

Our stalls in Motherwell, Glasgow and Paisley have been regularly mobbed, with hundreds signing our petition demanding that the Scottish National Party (SNP) government save jobs by nationalising the plants. Hundreds have bought copies of the Socialist, and thousands of leaflets have been distributed.

We have also leafleted shifts at both plants. There exists a mood for a fightback in the communities, if only a lead was given by the trade unions. Frustratingly, this has yet to take place.

Nobody expects anything from the Tory Westminster government, but the SNP - which has not yet ruled out nationalisation but has stated its preference for finding a private buyer - is becoming a target of anger and frustration.

One steelworker's partner told SPS activists leafleting the Motherwell plant: "I joined the SNP after the [independence] referendum. Me and all my pals voted for them in May when Labour got a kicking. We thought the SNP stood up to big companies in the referendum for the working class, but what are they doing about this? This has been going around for months about Tata pulling out. Nicola [Sturgeon - SNP First Minister] needs to act now, if they can't nationalise these plants how can they convince anyone of independence?"

The statements of the leaders of the trade unions, Community and Unite, have rightly called for the Westminster and Scottish governments to intervene but this has not been a clear call for nationalisation.

A mass fightback called by the trade unions could link up the fight of the steelworkers and against austerity locally.

The Labour council in North Lanarkshire should set a 'no cuts' budget and refuse to implement austerity, mobilising a mass campaign in support. Such a stance should demand support from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, elected on an anti-austerity ticket,

Full article on www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk

Looking after number one

Weeks before the official announcement of job losses, a Community Union representative contacted our local radio station to call for lower electricity charges and business rates for the steel industry in order to save jobs at the Scunthorpe Tata steel plant.

The union rep declared that local councillors were also backing this call. This was just before Tory Chancellor Osborne's budget which included a cheaper rate for energy bills for large business consumers of energy.


Around the same time Liz Redfern, Tory leader of North Lincolnshire Council, was questioned on local radio regarding her plan to cut council jobs and workers' pay, terms and conditions. Only weeks before the official announcement of steel job losses at Scunthorpe David Cameron made Redfern a Baroness!

Back in November 2004, the local Scunthorpe Telegraph newspaper, under the headline Rates Blow For Leader, declared that: "The new acting leader of North Lincolnshire Council has not paid business rates for her company for almost ten years...

"The district valuers office confirmed it would not be able to get the couple [Liz Redfern and her husband] to repay any of the money, as the law states arrears could only be backdated to the beginning of this financial year, which started in April" [2004].

Amid the uproar of an estimated 25,000 jobs disappearing in Humberside due to the knock on effects of axed steel jobs, Cameron sneakily handed Baroness Liz Redfern the job of heading the new Tory 'task force' - to direct the retraining of the jobless for jobs that do not exist!

Janet Gibson, Socialist Party Humberside

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Article dated 29 October 2015

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