Report from Matt Dobson
Over 300 steelworkers, their families, trade unionists and supporters from the wider community marched through Motherwell from the Dalzell plant to the site of the old Ravenscraig steelworks on 7th November. The march was called by the local Labour party and the trade unions.
Braving torrential rain, workers from the threatened plants – Dalzell and Clydebridge – turned out as did local public sector workers also facing job cuts and Glasgow shipyard workers. Workers were applauded by shoppers and passing car drivers tooted horns to show support.
This good turnout reflects the huge public support there is for saving the steel jobs. Socialist Party Scotland has been campaigning across the West of Scotland over the last fortnight raising the demand that the SNP Scottish government step in and nationalise the plants.
Speaking at the rally at the end of the march Labour MSP John Pentland called for public ownership of the plants to be considered, linked to guarantees by the Scottish government of procurement contracts. He raised as an example the SNP governments’ state intervention to save Prestwick airport.
This demand could, if taken up by the trade unions in a mass campaign drawing together the workforce and communities, put serious pressure on the Scottish government who have yet to find their preferred option of a private buyer.
1500 people have signed Socialist Party Scotland’s petition calling for the Scottish government to nationalise the plant. The 45 copies of the Socialist we sold on the day of the demonstration took total sales over the last fortnight to 500 in the West of Scotland.
Socialist Party Scotland have also called for an emergency trade union response, bringing together all industry shop stewards in a national meeting to formulate a strategy of mass action.
The need for this is becoming more acute. The jobs slaughter in manufacturing continued this week with German engineering firm Mahle, based in Kilmarnock, with a workforce of 400 announcing their intention to axe 170 jobs. North Lanarkshire Labour Councils’ cuts also mean 1,300 job losses, adding to the mood amongst local working class people that unless action is taken the community faces more devastation.
The steelworkers are already on short-time working but there is still an opportunity for the trade union to mobilise mass support from the working class on the Scottish government.
Action should be linked with workers and the community in Scunthorpe who march on the 10th November.
Nationalisation, linked to the use of steel for public work contracts, is the most effective way of protecting the skills, jobs and hard won terms and conditions of the steel workers. Even if the SNP find a private buyer it is likely this will be done in return for attacks on jobs, terms and conditions and asset stripping.
Ross Clark, Community Trade Union convenor for the plants, spoke at the rally and to the Socialist. “We cannot allow what happened with Ravenscraig to happen here. People have united on this demonstration and we need push the Task Force and both governments to consider all options”.
A steelworker apprentice commented, “there will be mass unemployment if these plants close and the councils cuts are made. My work training is linked to the steel industry. Sturgeon and the other politicians better not abandon us”.
Socialist Party Scotland is organising two public meetings this week on the socialist case for nationalisation.
Wednesday 11th November 7:30pm
The Glo Centre 78 Muir Street
Monday 9th November 7pm
The Woods Bar 29 Waterloo Street