STEELWORKERS’ representatives from the Community, Unite and GMB trade unions met at the TUC yesterday to demand action to save their jobs and industry.
They rallied outside the TUC headquarters off Tottenham Court Road, central London, before meeting inside where 100 delegates discussed the urgent crisis.
The meeting set out the following three demands of government:
1. To secure the customer base, the government must take immediate action to guarantee the production of Tata’s UK steel operations so that customers are not lost following Tata Steel’s announcement.
2. The government must work to ensure the integrity of the business is guaranteed. SSI has shown that a blast-furnace only operation in the UK is not sustainable. Allowing Tata or other investors to cherry-pick assets will put steel making at risk.
3. The plants are viable but they require investment. The issue isn’t competing on cost but the attractiveness of the product range. This means the business needs the investment originally planned by Tata – understood to be £1.5bn over 10 years. This level of investment should be achievable given that any buyer would be gaining control of assets worth £4bn.
Before the meeting, outside on the steps of the TUC, Havid Patel said: ‘There has been talk about a sit-in from some members. Don’t rule it out.’
Dave Bowyer, Unite NEC member from Port Talbot, told News Line: ‘We support the policy of our general secretary, Jeremy Corbyn and Mr McDonnell.’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and Labour leaders Corbyn and McDonnell have called for the temporary nationalisation of the steel industry.
Bowyer continued: ‘The government was quick enough to bankroll the banks and support them. They’ve dramatically failed to support steel, which is one of our foundation industries.
‘It’s not just the 40,000 people in Port Talbot, it’s the whole of the steel industry, plus the supply chain. That’s three and a half million workers. Occupation has been discussed.’
Malcolm Gullam, Port Talbot Unite branch chairman, added: ‘We need to do something. The government needs to do something, otherwise the steel industry in Britain, as we know it, will cease to exist.
‘When they shut the mines down, the price of coal went through the roof due to imports, the same will happen with steel. Occupation is something we would have to consider, we’ll do anything to keep the steel industry and our communities alive.
‘We’re talking millions of jobs, not just 4,000 at Port Talbot, it’s the national industry and manufacturing.
‘You shut the steel industry down and that’s the end of manufacturing in the UK. That’s what Thatcher wanted and that’s what Cameron is letting happen.’
Llanwern Unite branch secretary Mike Davis declared: ‘We want a general strike. We need action, we’re fed up with lip service. This is a crisis situation for our industry.
‘It’s been well-documented, it’s a fundamental and strategic industry for the country. We supply defence, transport, construction, infrastructure projects and the major automotive companies.
‘It’s estimated that up to 40,000 jobs are immediately at risk – 15,000 directly employed and then there’s the supply chain and service industries.’