Port Talbot steelworks, credit: Grubb (Creative Commons) (uploaded 07/04/2016)
Port Talbot steelworks, credit: Grubb (Creative Commons) (uploaded 07/04/2016)

Alec Thraves, Swansea Socialist Party and Trades Council Vice-President.

Tata Steel in Port Talbot continues to act like a sadistic animal, playing with its prey before striking a killer blow!

After meeting with steel unions to lay out their future plans for the Port Talbot plant on Wednesday 1 November, Tata cancelled its planned press conference and said it would not be releasing a statement on its plans after all.

Steel workers and residents remain on the edge of an economic and social precipice yet again!

Undoubtedly, this delay was a response to the furious reaction of union leaders. Tata representatives had previously announced the closure of the two blast furnaces, ending ‘primary steel making’ with up to 3,000 job losses in the ‘heavy end.’ Its replacement with an electric arc furnace, becoming essentially a big scrap metal operation, would employ a few hundred workers, if there’s enough scrap metal in the UK to melt down!

Tata executives have unbelievably already acknowledged that steel would need to be imported when their plans are implemented, to continue to supply their customers.

Unions believe Tata wants the closure of the furnaces by March 2024!

There should be no illusions now that Tata Steel, or any other private corporation, would be willing to finance the billions of pounds of investment necessary to retain the blast furnaces, decarbonised with new technology to save the environment, and to save all the jobs in the steelworks and surrounding communities.

Sharon Graham, the fighting General Secretary of Unite, is correct when she says:  “Tata’s sole purpose is serving its shareholders, not UK steel communities”.

She adds that “Only by the government taking a stake in the company will the right choices be made for the UK’s economy”.

But why take just a ‘stake’ in Tata steel?

If steel production is of such national and strategic importance to the UK economy, along with the thousands of jobs reliant on it, then the steel unions should be demanding that a future Labour government guarantees the full nationalisation of steel, under democratic workers’ control and management, with compensation paid only on the basis of need!

That essential demand had the support of many steelworkers on the Unite day of action in Port Talbot, fully supported by Swansea Trades Council and local Socialist Party members.

Alan Davies, a senior official of the Community Union, reflected the mood of the steel workers and the wider community when he warned Tata that if heavy job cuts are demanded: “We will just go to war with them!”

Middlesborough supports our steel

Daniel Forrest, Teesside Socialist Party

A cold and wet Thursday morning didn’t stop Unite the Union coming out in Middlesborough town centre to campaign to save what’s left of the steel industry in this country. Middlesborough and Teesside in general were built on iron and steel works as well as other heavy industries, which gives the campaign a special significance in the area. Scores of local people signed the petition and hundreds took leaflets, all within the space of an hour.

This campaign is ongoing with Unite across Teesside, also hitting Redcar and Stockton. Unite’s call for public investment and no job losses in our steel industry is a good start, but as socialists we must expand upon this and convince people of the need for a fully publicly owned steel industry under workers’ control, as part of a democratic national plan to rebuild our industries and provide full employment.

As the Socialist goes to press, the importance of this campaign has been driven home. British Steel, owned by the Chinese Jingye Group company, has announced plans to close down its blast furnaces in Scunthorpe, putting up to 2,000 jobs at risk.