Around 500 steel workers and their supporters lined the entrance of the Redcar gate of the Corus steelworks in Teesside, north-east England, on Friday of last week. The gathering took place the day before the mothballing of the plant began. This will result in the direct loss of 1,600 jobs. It will hit thousands more contracting jobs and destroy a whole community that is built around the steel industry. The local council estimates that up to 8,000 jobs could go. A brass band played as steel workers clocked out for the last time and 150 years of steelmaking on Teesside came to an end. Some felt too emotional to express how they felt. Others said they felt “devastated”, “disgusted” and “numb”. Ray Hensby told Socialist Worker, “I blame Margaret Thatcher. She privatised the steel industry. At least when it was nationalised we could put pressure on the government. “Thatcher destroyed public housing, reducing the demand for steel, while more people became homeless.” Geoff Waterfield, chair of the multi-union works committee at Corus, which called the protest, said, “This is a dark and poignant moment for us all. “The impact is no different to that when the pits shut down. Generations of families have worked there all their lives. “It’s heartbreaking—but the fight isn’t over.” The GMB and Community unions have begun ballots for strike action among all their members at Corus sites across Britain. Some fear that Tata, the company that owns Corus, will try to close more plants following the closure of Redcar. Placards showed the anger that exists among ordinary people in the town. They questioned why the government bails out the banks while working class people get nothing. Workers at Ensus Wilton, a refinery site just over the road, took illegal strike action last year in defence of workers at Lindsey oil refinery. And the occupations at Visteon car part plants won substantial gains. The bitterness among workers at Corus could also be turned into action. That’s what is needed to save Corus.
from Socialist Worker