UNITE yesterday welcomed the news that the government will bring Sheffield Forgemasters into public ownership.
The news came as the giant Honda plant in Swindon is set to close tomorrow, with the loss of thousands of jobs.
Unite’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner said of Forgemasters: ‘This is the news we’ve waited two years to hear.
‘Unite has been engaged in a long battle with the Ministry of Defence and the UK government to protect UK steel supply to our defence and nuclear programmes so today’s news will be welcomed with a huge sigh of relief right across our steel communities.
‘It brings to an end years of instability for this historic 215-year-old company, but is also a sign that government is maybe finally waking up to a crisis of its own making.
‘Critical infrastructure industries like steel function better in public hands and advanced economies like our own need to have stable, secure, domestic steel production capabilities to protect our national security interests as well as to compete in global markets.
‘But we only got to today’s good news because our members at Sheffield Forgemasters had the confidence and faith to invest in their plant’s future.
‘We will now work with the government and company to ensure that those workers who put their hands in their own pockets to support the company do not lose out.
‘We now look forward to a secure future for the plant which brings with it the guarantee for both today’s workforce and the thousands of young workers to follow the hope of a highly skilled job in a well-paid, unionised plant.’
However there is no secure future for any plant under capitalism even if ‘workers put their hands into their pockets to support the company.’
The Honda plant in Swindon proves the point. It is to shut tomorrow, Friday July 30, with the loss of 3,000 car workers’ jobs and a further 1,800 in the supply chain, with at least two local firms that provide parts for the plant shutting as well.
Swindon has been producing Honda cars for the last 35 years, and its loss will devastate the town.
Swindon Honda worker Michael Poole said the announcement, in February 2019, that Honda was to close the Swindon plant was ‘a huge shock’.
He was a year into an apprenticeship and was in a training session when his team leader came in with the news.
‘I felt like I’d got my foot on a ladder of a career I was really interested in, so it knocked us for six really.
‘There were tears, from people you don’t normally see cry. We were just left swinging in the breeze.’
Friday 30 July 2021 was set as the last official day of car production, and the last day of most workers’ contracts.
Jim Brennan, who had not long started at the plant when its closure was announced, said: ‘I liked working at Honda, and I was halfway through an apprenticeship, so it was just like my world had collapsed.’
Dave Wiltshire, Secretary of the All Trades Union Alliance, said: ‘The Unite union must immediately call an occupation of the Honda plant.
‘Workers have to demand that the entire site is nationalised and the jobs and town saved.
‘The TUC must be forced to call a general strike, to save these jobs and bring the government down.
‘Only the nationalisation of the steel and motor industries under workers management can definitely save all jobs.’
Unite regional officer Alan Tomala commented: ‘The closure of the Honda plant is the end of the era.
‘Unite has ensured that the affected workforce have generous redundancies and assistance with finding new employment.
‘Unite will continue to campaign and lobby for high quality work to be located in Swindon to replace the loss of Honda in the town.’