Monday, 14 December 2009

Can Corus workers revive their fightback?

Yesterday, steelworkers from the Corus plant in Middlesborough held a protest at Middlesborough FC's match against Cardiff City. Over 100 workers marched around the pitch prior to the game in order to draw attention to the plight of the plant, which is due to be partly mothballed in January. Roughly 1700 people face the loss of their jobs.

According to the BBC, "club chairman Steve Gibson and the town's mayor Ray Mallon held an impromptu news conference in support" of the workers whilst "fans clapped and chanted" and "the Middlesbrough squad showed their support by warming up in SOS (Save Our Steel) T-shirts."

Meanwhile, Reuters tells us of the government's announcement that the plant "will likely get its 2010 quota of free European carbon permits, worth around 100 million euros ($147 million)." Whilst the government insists that "we have to follow the legally binding rules under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)" as "it is not clear that all the ETS activities at the Corus Teesside plant have closed," "the permits could be sold by Corus to other firms to raise cash." Ostensibly, this means that "7 million tonnes of climate-warming carbon dioxide may eventually find their way into the atmosphere." It also amounts to a huge pay-off for a firm stripping 1700 people of a living.

In the Northern Echo, we read that Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Ashok Kumar has tabled an early Day Motion "which calls on Corus to look for a long term future for the Teesside Cast Products plant (TCP)" and has "already attracted support from other MPs." The workers themselves are "calling for the government to intervene and save the factory" as they have with the banks and other businesses.

As Middlesbrough FC chairman Steve Gibson noted;
These are not just statistics, they are families, real people with mortgages, facing Christmas, and the ripple effect it will have right across the Tees Valley will be extraordinarily negative.

The cost of that is far greater and far outweighs the cost of subsidising the steel industry for a short period of time, maybe one year. It doesn't make sense.
Earlier this month, I wrote that "it seems that the workers had long since given up any hope of a fightback." Now, with a new protest and hints of popular support in the region, it would appear that this assessment was premature. We can only hope that the workers of Corus are able to capitalise upon this new development and reinvigorate resistance to this attack upon their livelihoods.