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Port Talbot Steelworks Explosion: Make Safety Not Profit First Priority
"HOW COULD it happen?" That's the question working-class people in Port Talbot are asking after this steel town's biggest industrial accident for a generation. Three workers have now died after an explosion and fire at the Corus steelworks.
Rob Williams, Port Talbot Socialist Party
Another five are on life support machines at Morriston Hospital burns unit. Eight more are being treated for burns. Two of the dead workers were just 20 and 26 years old.
The workforce see this as an accident waiting to happen - the furnace should have been relined five years ago. Twelve months ago workers raised questions about safety with one of their local Welsh Assembly members.
One worker told The Socialist: "We used to have two weeks shut down a year for maintenance and now it's two days."
Many will say that steelworks are inevitably dangerous places to work. Unfortunately, the statistics since British Steel was privatised in 1987 show that in private hands this is true. The three who have died bring the total to a tragic 19 fatalities, most of whom have been contractors.
Many steelworkers will question the private sector's ability to provide a safe working environment when their priority is to make a profit. Thousands of steelworkers lost their jobs last year as steelmaking was ended in plants such as Ebbw Vale and Llanwern but Corus saw their share price rise!
The Socialist Party extends its deepest sympathies to those families who have lost loved ones and to those who are in hospital. We support a public investigation with the full involvement of the steelworkers, their families and the community in general.
We will also keep fighting for renationalisation of the steel industry but under workers' management and control as the only way to ensure continued steelmaking in Britain and a safe industry for its workers and working-class communities.
Corus were fined £300.000 at Cardiff crown court on 12 November after an incident where a contractor was killed in an explosion at Llanwern.
In The Socialist 16 November 2001: