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Anger at failure to save 1,700 steel jobs on Teesside

Richard Moss | 12:50 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

Marching steel workersLast Thursday I was at the steelworks in Teesside talking to the trades unions.

With just weeks of work left, they were imploring the Government to "get in up to their necks" to save the jobs at the plant.

Just over a week later comes the news that 1,700 jobs are going as the blast furnace at Redcar is mothballed.

It's a catastrophic blow for the area. For every job that goes at the steelworks, you can add many more locally that depend on the steel industry.

But once the Government insisted it would or could not put money directly in to Redcar, the onus fell on the company to try and replace the work lost when its previous customers tore up a 10 year agreement.

The Government said it would concentrate on stimulating demand for steel - via the car scrappage scheme and infrastructure projects.

Given that Redcar exports nearly all its steel, that has not proved enough. Without orders the plant has nowhere to go.

There will be anger at the Consortium that dropped the plant in it, anger that Corus and its Indian owners have failed to find new business.

But also expect anger from workers toward the Government.

The unions have called for a bail out, some have even have talked about nationalisation - pointing to the billions the Government has poured into the banks, in contrast to the lack of investment in their industry.

As the Politics Show reported last week some have looked towards the help the Welsh Assembly Government has given Corus in Port Talbot.

But none of this has been forthcoming. Under European law some of the help they wanted may not have even been possible.

Some will also point out the dangers of putting taxpayers' money into a business that just hasn't got any work.

The irony of course is the Government will now have to spend money trying to retrain and find new jobs for the workers, and on benefits for those who don't find work.

This may not be the end - the furnace has been mothballed not shut forever.

But will the industry really be able to get going again when some of its skilled workforce have drifted away?

The area's 150-year association with steel could be over.

And what of the impact on Teesside's economy? Workers told me last week they'd already put off holidays, and reined in spending because of the uncertainty.

Just how much will be spent in local businesses now?

This Christmas will be a grim one for steelworkers, but the test now will be to see how bad Christmases in 2010 and beyond turn out to be in Teesside.

The Politics Show will be live on Teesside this Sunday.


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