The unity of voices to say that temporary nationalization is the way forward must not be ignored…

The British steel industry was dealt a devastating blow at the end of March, when Tata Steel announced its intention to sell all of its operations in the UK. Around 15,000 workers are employed at 14 Tata sites – 4,500 at Port Talbot, the largest of the sites bought by the Indian conglomerate, Tata, in 2007.

Tata’s expressed reasons for withdrawing from UK steel manufacturing are “imports of Chinese steel, high energy costs and weak demand”. Whether the company will be able to find a buyer given these apparently insurmountable problems remains questionable. Meanwhile the UK’s Conservative government provides the unedifying spectacle of a group of individuals with no idea what to do, other than make hollow promises about doing everything it can to help the ailing industry short of actually helping it.

The IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Unite (which is the UK’s biggest trade union), is calling on the government to intervene and renationalize the plants at stake, while another IndustriaALL affiliate, Community,  has called on Tata to keep its promise of being a responsible seller.

Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, said:

“This is the time for the government to say categorically, without hesitation, that these assets will be taken into safe-keeping by the nation because without them our economy will not flourish.  We are already seeing jobs going in the supply chain because of the uncertainty over Tata’s future – our fear is this will snowball if insecurity is allowed to swirl around our steel sector.

“The unity of voices – from business to government – to say that temporary nationalization is the way forward must not be ignored.  This helped save the Scottish plants.  It has ensured that the Ilva plant in Italy survived – it must be deployed for the rest of the Tata operation.”

Tata owns five plants in Wales. As well as Port Talbot, there are works at Llanwern and Orb in Newport, Shotton in Flintshire and Trostre in Llanelli. Steel is part of the blood and sinew of Wales and the Welsh government has appealed to the UK government to accept the call for temporary nationalization. Carwen Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said his message to Prime Minister Cameron would be: “These plants cannot close.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has also expressed support for temporary nationalization and accuses the government of having an “ideological allergy to public ownership [that] is stopping it taking the steps needed to save steel”.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, is returning to the UK after holding talks with Tata Steel at their headquarters in Mumbai, India. He said:

“The UK is now on the verge of a national crisis. Tata Steel withdrawing completely from the UK risks destroying our entire steel industry. That would be a disaster both for those communities reliant on steel jobs and our entire industrial base.”

In a letter to Tata Steel, Richkhuss added:

“It is vital that adequate time is given for a new investor to be found. Tata has a moral and social responsibility to steel communities and families across the UK and must cooperate with the unions and the UK government.”

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said:

“We urge the British government to do everything in its power to support the British steel industry before it’s too late. There will be no going back. This is the time to support steel workers and their families in their hour of need. The course of action the government takes now will determine the fate of steel communities and the British economy for evermore.”

Raina added:

“Tata Steel has, in the past, promised to be responsible seller in divesting its assets. Thousands of workers and their families are depending on you to keep to your word.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Gary Herman

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