STEEL firm Corus, a subsidiary of India’s Tata Steel cut 3,500 jobs yesterday, 2,500 in the UK out of its 24,000 employees here.
In its statement Corus described the sackings as ‘a series of strategic measures that will improve its competitive position’, that includes the ‘mothballing of the Llanwern hot strip mill’ making a 20 per cent saving in ‘IT, Finance and Human Resources’, plus terminating the final salary pension scheme for all new starters.
Corus workers were told about the job cuts yesterday morning. It was the first notice that they or their trade union leaders had of the measures.
On Sunday, the GMB trade union put out the following statement, showing how unprepared the union leaders were for the obvious.
Keith Hazlewood, GMB National Secretary said, ‘GMB will be disappointed if Corus has made any decision affecting the workforce without speaking to GMB and the other unions. We have learned of this intention from today’s media if the reports turn out to be true.
‘The unions met Corus last Tuesday and this was not mentioned. There are no scheduled meetings with the company in the near future. That could change very soon.’
The trade unions despite the acute economic crisis were taken by surprise. Earlier this year the union membership had forced the trade union leaders to turn down a Corus request to accept a 10 per cent wage cut for their members.
After this setback Corus obviously chose to shoot first and let the union leaders ask questions later, about the nearly 700 sackings at Llanwern, a further 500 across Wales, plus another 713 at Rotherham and 93 in Scunthorpe.
The union leaders responded to this first strike tactic with the GMB’s National Officer John Wilson stating: ‘It is essential that the UK government offers this industry the same support being offered to the banking sector because, just like banks, steel is the bedrock of our economy. . . .’
Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite said: ‘We will not accept any compulsory redundancies. We understand that Corus do face difficulties, but before this recession, Corus had been making extremely healthy profits. . . . Our members have supported Corus through good times and bad and now expect Corus to support them.
‘Our officials are seeking an urgent meeting with Corus to discuss ways to avoid compulsory redundancies. . . .
‘The UK’s manufacturing sector desperately needs support from our government. We need a strategic support package from government, similar to the support provided by the German, French and Swedish governments to their manufacturing sector, otherwise viable businesses will go to the wall because they can’t access credit.’
The union leaders are calling for state aid for the steel bosses, not renationalisation of the steel industry in order to defend every one of their members’ jobs.
They know full well that the government support for the banks has brought about an avalanche of sackings with a lot more to come, and that the deepening of the world slump means 3,500 sackings are just the start of a very slippery slope to sacking many thousands of steel and car workers.
The union leaders are taking their stand alongside Premier Brown, to save the bankers and the bosses, no matter what this costs the working class.
Renationalisation of the steel industry is the only way to defend the jobs, wages and homes of every steelworker.
Trade union leaders who refuse to call for and campaign for the renationalisation of the steel industry, are selling out their members’ futures in favour of helping out the bosses and the bankers and must be immediately removed.
Unite and GMB union leaders must be made to
• Defend every job at Corus
• Organise the occupation of the steel plants to stop their ‘mothballing’ and closure
• Organise national strike action, with the support of all trade unions to achieve the renationalisation of the steel industry.