Bosses’ and union tops’ “agenda of misery”

Steel crisis

Bosses and union tops presiding over an “agenda of misery”

Jobcentre Plus, photo Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

Jobcentre Plus, photo Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A redundant steelworker

I was a steelworker for almost 40 years, after starting out as a 16 year old in 1978.

Every time I put on the news at the moment the talk is all about saving steelworker jobs. But lots have gone already, including mine.

The whole process of laying people off was handled really badly. I was told after Christmas that my last date would be 31 March.

This gave me a window to apply for jobs while still working, but if I left the company I forfeit the opportunity for a ‘crossmatch’ and a job at another plant. In the end neither happened and I’m now unemployed and looking for work.


People are fearful; being out of work is a place you don’t want to be. A lot of workers are in their 50s and I’m convinced changes were made to our pensions last year because the company knew this was coming. I’m 54 and could have accessed my pension at 55. I’m not the only person in that situation.

The steelworkers’ union, Community, is a poor union. They and their predecessor union have never really fought anything, only gone along with management. Now, Community reps in Port Talbot are saying they don’t want nationalisation!

But if steel was nationalised, then the government could use the steel in contracts for rail, wind turbines and other infrastructure projects. A proper plan of nationalisation would keep people in work and create jobs.

Rotherham steelworks has also wasted hundreds of millions of punds on a restructure, investing in a new mill that was never used.

In the workplaces themselves now there is also a points system for jobs, meaning there is competition between workers for jobs when redundancies come around, the old divide and rule tactic.

Community shouldn’t preside over this agenda of misery, we should have walked out together in solidarity. I’m sure things would have been different if we did that instead of placating management.

The company is now run on a target-driven basis. It resembles a sweatshop environment, with workers checked by computer on how much steel they are producing.

But it’s still better than a lot of jobs out there. Some jobs I am applying for sound like complete hellholes. Skilled jobs, when they are gone are gone. I feel like I’ve jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.