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Clock ticking on UK steel: it's time to act!
Rob Williams, Chair, National Shop Stewards Network
Four weeks ago, Tata Steel announced the sale of its UK operations. But if Tata can't find a buyer it will sack 15,000 workers directly employed by the company. Three times as many support workers will also lose their jobs. Reports have surfaced that the company will set 28 May as the deadline date, meaning workers have just over a month to save their jobs and communities.
The trade union rank and file National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has organised public meetings and protests in South Wales, where Port Talbot (the biggest steelworks) appears to be at most risk. On 13 April, a group of steelworkers came to a NSSN public meeting in the town along with supporters and other union activists. There was a wide cross-section of ages and experiences but the same determination that they wouldn't be the last steelworkers in Port Talbot after a century of steelmaking.
There was an understanding that the unions must act urgently. The meeting agreed a proposal that the workers would go back to the plant and call on the unions to organise a demonstration in Port Talbot in May and call on all Welsh trade unionists to support it. But if the unions don't act, then the NSSN will take on the responsibility of organising it with rank-and-file steelworkers.
The meeting took place a day after the proposed 'sale' for £1 of the Scunthorpe steelworks to investment fund Greybull Capital on the basis of savage cuts to hard-won pay and pensions. But no one in the Port Talbot meeting held out any hope of a private sector saviour for its plant. Only permanent nationalisation can ensure that all the steelworks survive, with workers keeping their jobs on their present terms.
Any demonstration in Port Talbot or elsewhere must be the rallying point for a serious mass united campaign that turns the huge sympathy that exists for steelworkers into practical support and solidarity to fight to force the government to nationalise the steel plants.
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