The blast furnace at Redcar steelworks, photo by Jeff Pardoen (Creative Commons)

The blast furnace at Redcar steelworks, photo by Jeff Pardoen (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Rudi Abdallah

Skilled steelworkers, recently made redundant, could apparently face punishing benefit sanctions – for refusing to seek low-paid work which doesn’t use their skills.

2,200 workers lost their jobs when the SSI steelworks in Redcar, North Yorkshire closed last October. Redcar’s Labour MP Anna Turley told parliament that job centres have reprimanded steelworkers for not applying to shops and bars.

Claimants are meant to have a 13-week window to apply for similarly high-skilled work. Yet Turley says they’ve been ordered to apply for lower-skilled jobs only two weeks in.

Reportedly, one apprentice with nearly three years’ experience was told “he should get a job in a bar”. Of course, serving beer is what logically follows years of training in steelmaking.

The Department for Work and Pensions denies this has occurred. But the workers shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.


Since last summer, profit-hungry firms have slashed nearly 5,000 jobs. Tata, SSI and others claim they are unable to contend with a cocktail of issues, ranging from high energy costs to cheap Chinese steel.

Across the country, beleaguered steelworkers have been betrayed by callous Tories, uninterested in helping working class people – who make all the riches they and their mates own.

In a shocking example of double standards, the Tories supported Gordon Brown bailing out the greedy banks that wrecked the economy in 2007. But they have refused to intervene here, claiming the situation is beyond their control.

Nationalise steel under the democratic control of workers and the community. Steelworkers are blameless. Public ownership would return their dignity, and retain valuable skills.