THE BLOG

A Sense of Deja Vu, Save Teesside Steel

24/09/2015 11:52 BST | Updated 24/09/2016 10:12 BST

Once again the Teesside Steelworks are on the verge of being shut down, putting 2,000 people out of work. SSI have paused steel production and staff have been told that they can be offered "no assurances" that they will be paid this Friday.

For those hoping to save Teesside steel, it almost feels like a sense of deja vu. It's no surprise that this evokes Memories of the last steelworks shut down on Teesside, which only happened 5 years ago.

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Image: Stuart Kerr

Having spent a lot of time working in Redcar over the last 5 years, there is no doubt how important the steelworks is to the town. Not only historically, the suburb of Dormanstown was built by the company who opened the Teesside Steelworks, Dorman Long. But also economically. Teesside steel production is the economic lifeblood of the town. When the plant reopened in 2012 it was clear for anyone working in the town what a boost it give to the area.

The devastating effect of 2,000 job losses is going to be terrible as it is - but the knock-on effect for people in other industries in Redcar will be just as bad.

Anyone who regularly visited Redcar during 2010 and 2012 (when the plant reopened) could see the effect the closure had on the town. With steelworkers no longer able to spend money in Redcar, jobs were lost in other areas. Reduced demand caused some businesses to disappear and those who remained open needed to cut back on costs. Many people who lost their jobs during this time spiralled into debt and believe me, many of these people have never recovered.

If the steelworks are closed down all of these things will be repeated, but the effect in 2015 could be a lot worse than in 2010. The people losing their jobs today will be looking at a benefits system which offers much less support than it did in 2010. The jobs market in Redcar incredibly tough as it is, 2,000 extra people are going to make finding a job in Redcar even more difficult. And with little demand for their specialised skillset there is little hope for these people to move straight into a new job.

High levels of mortgage defaults and home evictions are a real possibility for these hard working people.

People who are sympathetic to the plight of SSI themselves have pointed out that the industry is facing tough times worldwide at the moment, which is true. If it really is at the point where the steelworks cannot be saved then that is understandable, but it does not mean we should be dumping 2,000 workers onto the dole.

If you can't save Teesside steel, at least save Teesside steelworkers.

The steel industry has been on shaky ground for a long time, so why hasn't there been a plan B for areas such as Redcar with a strong dependence on the industry. There does not appear to have been any attempt to bring alternative industries to these areas, nor have there been offers of retraining for steelworkers. It appears as though the government have just kicked the can down the road in the hope that "future government" will know how to resolve the problem when it happens again.

Well, now we're at the point where "future government" has to resolve the problem and so far, it doesn't look like they have any answers.

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Which is why it is important for people across the country to support steelworkers in Teesside while they fight to save their jobs. These are the kind of hard working people we all agree deserve help when they need it. It's time that we all show our support for these people rather than focusing on stories from the Lord Ashcroft book which would be more at home on Time To Break than in any political discussion.

Let's support them, let's get the word out there on social media and let's write to our local MP's to demand that these people don't get left behind.

Let's save Teesside steel.