Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2002

Steel Jobs Massacre

TO MARK the end of two centuries of iron and steelmaking at Ebbw Vale in South Wales, BBC Wales started a series Hearts of Steel, dealing with the aftermath of the job cull in the steel industry last year.

Rob Williams

The programme was in the form of a video diary showing how a number of Corus (formerly British Steel) workers and their families dealt with the closures of Ebbw Vale and Llanwern 'heavy end' (actual steelmaking) plants. Other plants in South Wales were affected, notably Bryngwyn, outside Swansea, which was closed.

The first programme showed how the families reacted to the decision and reflected their feelings of shock, anger and insecurity.

Many workers could identify with their fear of the future when they realised how their lives would have to change after losing relatively well-paid jobs.

One of the mothers asked how they were going to be able to support their daughter who was starting university in a few months time. Others started to think about moving from the area but of course, where to?

The impact on Ebbw Vale in particular was heartbreaking. Workers there faced the same bleak prospect experienced by the miners after 1985, another valley with no industry, jobs or hope.

The most interesting part of the programme was the thoughts of a Llanwern shop steward who was also an ex-miner. The defeat of the miners' strike was used by right-wing trade union leaders, like those of the steel union ISTC, to tarnish the idea of militant trade unionism. Their strategy of compliance in the steel industry has seen a gradual worsening of conditions and leakage of jobs.

The last few years have seen management emboldened by and dismissive of the union, launch a major offensive against conditions, including seniority, in steel plants.

The closure and redundancy programme was the ultimate proof that weak trade unionism cannot protect workers' jobs.

The programme showed that there is no automatic resistance from workers. Years of the 'dented shield' approach effectively disarmed the workers in the steel industry. As in many industries, the right-wing leaders became divorced from the membership who had no confidence in their ability to lead a serious fight against Corus.

No-one would argue that any union leadership would have guaranteed a victory or belittle the task facing the workers but the shop steward himself contrasted the reaction of the ISTC with that of the NUM in 1984 to the Tory-sponsored pit closure programme: "What we haven't got is a Scargill figure."

More importantly, what was lacking was a well-organised trade union, able to keep its members informed and actively involved over a whole period before and during the dispute. Corus workers had to find out information from snippets on the news rather than at mass meetings or from union sources. Inevitably, any mood to resist was dissipated.

The programme also highlighted the role of New Labour, who complained about the decisions of big business, rather than having any sort of programme to even contemplate re-nationalisation.

In fact, as we now know, a few hundred thousand pounds donation from one steel entrepreneur meant more to New Labour than the working-class communities facing devastation.

Hearts of Steel is a must-see for workers and their families, particularly in South Wales.

It is a visual text-book of the reality of the decisions of big business and their effects on workers and their families.

If it makes people angry and determined that our class should avoid further meek surrenders in the future, then some good would have come out of it.

ISTC members in a Tredegar factory started a 'work to rule' in a dispute over changes in their pensions just two days after the programme was aired.

Kent Steel Jobs Threatened

ASW, THE steel works on the Isle of Sheppey, is in receivership, a situation which has been building up for over two years.

Anne Ursell

330 people stand to lose their jobs, which will have a big effect on Sheerness and the surrounding area.

When I asked an official from the steel union ISTC if they were going to do anything to fight the sell-off or closure of the steel mill, he said in a posh accent: "I'm not going to give you anything you could use to incite our members!"

But I know workers are angry that the situation has got so bad at the mill.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 19 July 2002:

Unite To Defend Public Services

Safety Before Profit!

Not So Generous Gordon

Student funding: New Labour Targets Students - Again

No To Bush's War For Oil Profits

Rape: "No" Really Does Mean No

Behind The Financial Scandals

Steel Jobs Massacre


Home   |   The Socialist 19 July 2002   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleThyssenKrupp - Tata steel merger

triangleHow the Single Market blocks socialist policies

triangleSteel workers at Rom Ltd strike for a pay rise


triangleNationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

triangleBalloting members on the pay cap

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleBoeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs


triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleCan you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses


triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleStriking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay


Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?



Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni


Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers



Balloting members on the pay cap



'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future



Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison


South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP



Uprising to save the NHS!



Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?


East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!


North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses



Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems



Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now



Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice