Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Redcar's Redundancies

The Community Union and Teesside MPs Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley have written a joint letter to Win Viriyaprapaikit, SSI Group CEO: 
“When you acquired the business in 2011 you inherited an incredibly committed, loyal and highly skilled workforce that is second to none. A workforce that has worked in partnership with you and which has continued to set new standards and break all production records in the face of extreme adversity.”

In other words: they've worked themselves out of a job and produced more steel than the market can bear, and there are newer and better blast furnaces out there. It’s worth noting this is probably an effect of the Chinese slow down, and the knock on fall in commodities prices.  Worldwide problems need worldwide solutions, not government protection.

Moth-balling Redcar’s furnace down won't destroy Teesside, steel isn't what it was. But it is serious enough. Perhaps, half a million live on Teesside, gives a working population of about150,000 (roughly a third of the total) 1,700 jobs to go, immediately, with supply chain and knock on jobs pretty certain.  That's 1.13% of the workforce going in one blow.

At least there is some sort of organising taking place. SSI steel-workers, their families and friends have held rallies  to call on the Prime Minister to save the local steel industry. A 'Save Our Steel' campaign has begun. People will march and protest and they'll shout, but there is little leverage to use. Still, the furnace has been closed and restarted once before. It could happen again. The Tory government could absorb the debts and make it more attractive business proposition for private industry to purchase.  Don't hold out too much hope, however. Nor would the political threat to expropriate have much credence in it, as some supporters of  future Labour government would have us believe.

The Government reached an agreement which provided cash to pay SSI workers. It is believed HMRC  released around £4m by bringing forward tax payments following talks with the firm’s Thai parent company. The money allowed SSI to meet its monthly wage bill. It must be nice being a capitalist, and getting the state to pay your workers (obviously, that's profits robbed from other capitalists, but we’re not going to begrudge the workers who need that money). Although some supply chain firms have been laying off workers without pay. The state will have to bear the cost of redundancies if SSI are fundamentally broke (and then also the costs of clean-up if SSI walk away permanently).

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