Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/21736
Trade union action needed to fight for steel jobs
Around 1,000 steelworkers, families and supporters marched through Scunthorpe on Tuesday 10 November fighting for their jobs and a future for the town's steelworks and the industry as a whole.
Hundreds more clapped and cheered along the route, honking horns and even getting out of cars to applaud the marchers. Plate mill electrician Charlotte Upton said "the support from the town and community is overwhelming, incredible."
And no wonder. Not only has Tata Steel announced 900 jobs to go at Scunthorpe but the very existence of the works in the town is in jeopardy.
Last week, Tata Steel Europe chief executive Karl Koehler stated: "Our strategy remains unchanged. Long Products will not have a future in Tata Steel."
If the works closes, Scunthorpe will become a ghost town, like South Yorkshire ex-pit villages before it.
Labour politicians and trade union leaders spoke at the end rally demanding a "level playing field". But there cannot be a level playing field in the global market (ie capitalist profit) economy. Tata is a multinational company that like any other is cutting costs and moving production to where it can make the most profit.
China is 'dumping' its overproduction, forcing down world steel prices - these are the laws of supply and demand in a market economy. That's why the Socialist Party has campaigned all along for the steel trade unions and Jeremy Corbyn to demand nationalisation of the steel industry as the only way to save jobs now and secure the future for the steel industry.
As Charlotte Upton said: "If nationalisation will save the industry, then that's what needs to be done."
Significantly, Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of the Unite trade union, said at the rally: "If the job losses continue then we should call for temporary nationalisation of the industry like the government in Italy has done."
The call for nationalisation is growing after Jeremy Corbyn suggested it as one possible form of state intervention. That is because there's a growing realisation that even if import tariffs, lower business rates and reduced energy costs could be achieved, it would not be enough to save jobs now or stop Tata pulling out of Scunthorpe. And what other steel firm is going to buy Scunthorpe works if Tata says it isn't making enough profit?
Although it is still making big profits worldwide. Half yearly profits of £301 million for the six months to the end of September have just been announced. Where have all the profits gone? Why should workers subsidise Tata's profits anymore?
As Steve Miller from Scunthorpe who is the Unite executive member for the region, told the Socialist: "What we don't want is a so-called Northern Powerhouse based on workers doing 16-hour days churning out cheap goods on low pay. We want nationalisation with a purpose. For investment in manufacturing, in highly skilled, well paid jobs. For lower energy costs, affordable supply lines and dedicated customers."
The unions shouldn't wait for any more job losses. They should set a date for a one day strike across the industry and appeal to workers in manufacturing and support industries to show solidarity. And they should demand nationalisation of the steel industry now.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 November 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.