CORUS INDUSTRIAL ACTION POSSIBLE say steel union leaders

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‘WE don’t rule out industrial action,’ Michael J Leahy, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union said yesterday.

This was after the Tata Corus management announced that production at the Corus plant will cease within a week, bringing to an end 150-years of steelmaking on Teesside.

‘The decision to mothball Teesside Cast Products is premature and jeopardises the foundations of British manufacturing’ said the Community union, which represents the majority of Tata Corus members.

The mothballing of the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) blast furnace at Redcar, where about 1,600 workers are facing the sack, will begin on Friday, management announced.

Unions said the site was ‘still viable’ and they would not give up hope that a buyer for the plant could be found.

The mothballing had been due to start at the end of January, but was extended to the end of February, after angry workers demonstrated against closure, and mobilised the entire area against it.

The firm has now announced that the manufacture of steel slabs will come to an end within days and the furnace will be put out.

Redcar and Cleveland Council have estimated that more than 8,000 jobs will be lost in the area by companies that are linked to steel production, many of which will have no option but to close.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson pledged £60 million to help the area recover, but the unions argue that the money should be spent on saving the steelworks.

Community General Secretary Leahy said yesterday: ‘The decision to mothball the steelworks disregards the potential for renewal and ignores alternatives which would safeguard the future of Teesside, the steel industry and British manufacturing.

‘We still believe that a viable deal can be done with a potential off-taker or buyer.

‘The slab market is improving week by week and we are firmly of the view that Tata Corus have acted too quickly.

‘By putting profit before the people of Teesside, Tata Corus have undermined the foundation for future growth – we will continue to fight for a future for Teesside.

‘Lots of questions remain unanswered not least the length of time that the mothball will take place.

‘In view of the manner in which this has been done, with Tata Corus riding roughshod over any consultation, it means we cannot rule out seeking our members’ support for industrial action.’

A Community union spokesman added to News Line: ‘We will take the question to our members if they want to take industrial action.

‘The mothballing process takes around six weeks.

‘We still don’t accept the closure. Teesside has made steel for 150 years and has been the bedrock of British manufacturing.’

Geoff Waterfield, multi-union chairman at TCP, said: ‘I want somebody with a bit of common sense to see those works for what they actually are – a very good investment.

‘Not only is it going to make profit for whoever owns that company, but it’s going to make sure a community and region survive.

‘I’ll continue to fight, as everyone else in those works will.’

More than 1,700 workers had been at risk until January, when a deal was reached to retain TCP’s South Bank coke ovens, safeguarding 120 jobs.