Trade unions must join fight for steel nationalisation

Trade unions must join the fight for steel nationalisation

Matt Dobson, Socialist Party Scotland

The consultation period over the threatened Tata steel plants in Motherwell, Clydebridge and Scunthorpe has come to an end. Despite Scottish government taskforces meeting the threat of closure is not over.

There are rumours in the media that Tata has found three buyers who are bidding for the Scunthorpe steel plant.

On 7 December Scotland’s Daily Record reported the SNP Scottish government are considering a short term subsidy for the steel plants in Lanarkshire. The SNP also claim they have buyers interested.


While this subsidy over Christmas, if agreed, will be a relief to workers and communities with the immediate prospect of mass redundancies being avoided, it’s not certain how long this subsidy can be paid and what strings are attached.

The workforce at both Motherwell and Clydebridge have been on short time working since early November and under the subsidy it seems this will continue, but why can’t the Scottish government pay full wages to the steel workers? Why has the SNP government continued to drag the crisis on by insisting their preferred option is a private buyer?

The crisis over the closure of the Forth road bridge due to failing steel structures, which were contracted to Chinese companies, has again raised the issue of why Scotland’s steel industry should be under public ownership and used for the necessary infrastructure projects.

Economic conditions show that even if private buyers for the plants are found, the factors causing the crisis in the industry are long term. National manufacturers’ organisation EEF found that the steel industry is leading the fall of manufacturing in the UK.

Questions about the nature of private buyers have to be asked. The bosses are refusing to invest in manufacturing industry, investment is needed to protect the terms and conditions of steel workers and the long term future of the UK industry. There is a risk asset stripping can take place.

Public ownership

Trade unions at all the Tata plants and in the steel industry beyond, should convene an emergency meeting of shop stewards, across the industry, to organise a mass campaign.

This should draw in support from communities for nationalisation and to demand that no loss of pay and conditions takes place during short time working and consultation periods, over the future of plants, or if private buyers come in.

The trade unions cannot rely on taskforces involving the bosses who have mismanaged the industry to protecting the interests of the workforce. A discussion needs to take place among shop stewards and steel workers about tactics.

This should include occupations and industrial action to force the issue of nationalisation and a fightback to protect terms and conditions, in the event of a private buyer, onto the agenda.

Mass support for nationalisation and a fight-back to save jobs exists in communities and Socialist Party Scotland has been to the fore, calling on the Scottish government to nationalise steel plants. At the Scottish Steel Taskforce we handed in a petition supporting nationalisation with 2,000 signatures, collected on street stalls locally.

Jeremy Corbyn

The case for nationalisation could have been made more clearly and energetically by Jeremy Corbyn. This would give confidence to trade unionists, workers and communities and the forces who support him in the conflict with the Blairites in Labour.

It’s vital in the coming Scottish parliament election that candidates stand in Lanarkshire calling for nationalisation of the steel industry by the Scottish government and opposed to all cuts from Holyrood. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is willing to be a part of this.