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Teesside steel: No trust in big business 'solutions'
THE CORUS steel firm has angered steelworkers and the people of Teesside in north-east England by announcing plans to cut 1,700 jobs. (see 'Bail out our jobs, not greedy bankers')
Steelworking has a long history in Teesside; its first blast furnace was opened in the 1850s. For many years in the 19th century Teesside set the world price for iron and steel. Sydney Harbour bridge's steel components were built by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough and the bridge has Made In Middlesbrough stamped on it.
With industrial production playing a declining role in Britain's economy, 'demand' for steel and iron nationally declined. To try to slow the decline, Harold Wilson's Labour government nationalised British Steel in 1967 but Thatcher's Tories privatised it in 1988, putting plants at the mercy of capitalism's search for profit.
Blair's Labour government kept British Steel in private hands and it merged with Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus in 1999. Sir Brian Moffat, the then Corus chairman notoriously said: "We make money, not steel." The fat cat executives certainly made money for themselves but made less steel and employed tens of thousands fewer workers.
In 2004, a consortium of four capitalist steel firms from Italy, South Korea, Switzerland and Argentina signed a ten-year contract to buy 78% of the production of the businesses. In April 2009 they unilaterally terminated the contract after puling out of a bid to acquire Corus' Teesside assets.
In 2007 Tata Steel, part of the Indian conglomerate Tata, bought a 100% stake in Corus for £6.7 billion after a fierce bidding war with a rival multinational.
Now Corus plans to cut thousands of jobs despite Corus contributing about $2 billion to Tata Steel's profits in 2007-8. Recession halved its profits this year, but Corus is still one of Europe's largest steel producers and its parent company increased profits in other areas including the motor industry.
Workers cannot trust deals with profit-hungry big business to save steel jobs. The steel industry should be renationalised but this time under democratic workers' control and management.
In The Socialist 9 December 2009:
Socialist Party editorial
War and occupation
Socialist Party news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party appeal