Corus faces thousands’ SOS in poor English region

July 18th, 2009 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, July 18 (IANS) Thousands of British steelworkers and their families are holding a protest march Saturday in a town in northeast England where the looming closure of a Corus steel plant threatens to throw families into poverty.

Corus, which is owned by Tata Steel, has warned it may have to close down its plant in Redcar because a consortium of clients has pulled out of a 10-year contract to buy its steel, prompting the Save Our Steel march.

Local community and national union leaders warned of a “dramatic” increase in local poverty if the 150-year-old steel plant shuts down, and appealed to the British government to help rescue the steelmaker.

Closure is expected to result in the loss of 2,000 jobs at the plant, and another 1,000 elsewhere.

But others say the status of the plant, known as Teesside Cast Products, as one of the main regional employers means its closure will result in a loss of local high street spending that could balloon into nearly 10,000 job losses.

Announcing the Save Our Steel (SOS) march, Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite Union, said: “In a show of defiance Unite members will march to demonstrate that 150 years of iron and steelmaking in Teesside matters.

“The loss of the Corus plant will rip the heart out of this local community. The thousands of workers at Corus must be supported in order to maintain a viable world-class industry in the future,” he said.

Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary, added: “Workers and their families will march to send a clear message to the management of Corus and the government, this community must not be forgotten.”

Community leaders warned that job losses would “dramatically” increase poverty in the local Teesside region, named for the Tees river.

“The march to Save our Steel should really focus minds on what’s at stake here,” union official Richard Green said.

“With the plight of children becoming a serious problem in our community, it’s time to recognise that the best answer to the threat of children living in poverty is to ensure that their parents have access to sustainable long-term employment.”

According to the Campaign to End Child Poverty, Teesside faces child poverty rates above the national average. Throughout the Tees Valley three in four children are classed as experiencing severe financial hardship either in a low income family or a non-working family.

“Teesside Cast Products (TCP) is one of the main employers in the area and part of the backbone of British manufacturing. Support for TCP now will cost the government far less over the long term than trying to rebuild the local economy if TCP is forced to close,” Green said.

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