Unite the Union has launched a new campaign to highlight the decline in Britain’s steel industry. Its plan for the future of the industry includes a demand that public contracts in Britain are obliged to use British steel.
The union wants to safeguard existing employment and calls for a doubling of steelmaking capacity to rebuild the industry and create thousands of new jobs. It points to past underinvestment in the industry, but says it has a future with the right political choices.
The union has launched the campaign in Sheffield, Scunthorpe, Middlesbrough and Port Talbot, areas where steel is still a crucial part of local industry. This campaign quite rightly challenges both the prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer – it asks about whose side they are on when it comes to steel making.
The union has commissioned huge billboards along with local newspaper adverts to get the message over. This is supported by a team of union organisers who are charged with talking to local people, seeking to persuade them to make demands on their local MPs and other politicians to support the aims of Unite’s campaign.
Unite has set out the Workers’ Plan for Steel as a blueprint for restoring Britain’s place as a world leader in steel production and securing the industry for our needs. It has opened a petition calling on all political parties to support the plan.
Steel is a huge user of energy. As part of that plan, Unite demands that electricity prices are capped and the electricity grid is brought into public ownership.
The union calls for a change in procurement rules so public contracts can use 100 per cent British steel. It estimates this measure alone could create 8,000 jobs.
Unite also calls for public investment in steel. But that investment should not just be handouts – the union demands that public investment should come with the obtaining of solid job guarantees, and that that investment is in the form of a stake in the industry.
“The time to fight for the industry is now.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said that the steel industry, “…can have a bright future but the time to fight for it is now. Unite’s campaign will ensure that politicians of all stripes…cannot wriggle free from the critical action needed to save the industry with warm words that never amount to anything.
“Unite’s Workers’ Plan for Steel shows politicians have the opportunity to make the UK a world leader in steel production – we will be doing everything in our power to make sure they grasp it.”