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The Socialist 12 May 2009 |
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Corus jobs slaughter - fight the closure
NEWS THAT steel maker Corus is set to close its Redcar plant has sent shockwaves throughout Teesside.
The proposed 'mothballing' of Corus is being blamed on the withdrawal of a ten-year contract by an international consortium, which was set to run until at least 2014.
It is estimated that Corus accounts for 20% of work in Redcar. Alongside the 2,000 job losses at the plant, around 1,000 workers in the supply chain will also face redundancy.
Corus was formed in 1999 by the merger of privatised British Steel and the Dutch Hoogovens steel company. In 2006 Corus was taken over by the Indian-owned Tata Steel conglomerate. The job losses at Redcar are thought to be in addition to the 2,500 cuts Tata was already planning across its UK operations.
On the local news Corus management have been quick to point the finger of blame at the international consortium. Certainly the ease with which such profit-hungry companies can renege on contractual agreements is disgraceful. Although it seems a legal challenge will be made against the consortium, the outcome from such a move could take years, by which time the site would no longer be viable.
However, blame must also be shouldered by the Tata group which made £2.8 billion profit last year (2007-08), handing shareholders a 22% increase in dividends. Corus workers should put pressure on their unions to demand the books are opened - where have all the super profits of the boom years gone?
Mandelson, New Labour's business secretary, is reported in the Financial Times as pledging that: "The government stands ready to do what it can to support the company." Corus workers at the Redcar plant should not put any faith into arch-privateer Mandelson saving the day for them. If the plant is temporarily unviable as a result of the economic downturn, rather than the plant being mothballed (which in reality would lead to permanent closure as it would be impossible to retain the site and skills of the workforce), unions should fight for the plant to be nationalised and put under democratic workers' control with no compensation for fat cat bosses.
In Britain, workers facing job losses and worsening conditions are looking towards the Visteon workers whose determined action has forced the employers to concede an enhanced payments package.
Construction workers in Redcar have already flexed their industrial muscles when they joined the Lindsey Oil Refinery protests. Faced with redundancies Corus workers' only real option for a decent future will be to take militant action against callous employers.