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Port Talbot Steel Plant - Scargill's Warning

The news that steel-workers at the Port Talbot steel works in South Wales are prepared to take strike action to save 2,800 jobs should rouse support from the entire British trade union movement.

In 2015, Arthur Scargill warned steel-workers at Port Talbot that the intention of both the Tory Government and the Labour Party was to further run down Port Talbot and what remains of Britain’s privatised steel industry with the false argument that the industry was uneconomic and out-dated.

At a packed Socialist Labour Party public meeting held in the run-up to the General Election, Scargill recalled how in 1980 the National Union of Mineworkers had given full support to striking steel-workers.  In Yorkshire, the NUM had brought mass picketing to the Hadfields plant in Sheffield and Scargill had warned the workforce at  the Llanwern steel plant in South Wales of what the future would bring if they didn’t fight back.

In 1980, Bill Sirs, then leader of the steel-workers’ union (ISTC), promised Britain’s mineworkers he would never forget their support.  However, during the miners’ strike of 1984/85, Bill Sirs refused to call on his members to stop work (including those at Scunthorpe steel works and the Orgreave coking plant) – a refusal which was a monumental sell-out.

When the NUM took strike action against pit closures in 1984, the Tory Government was terrified of a potential threat to Britain’s steel industry, a fact admitted by Margaret Thatcher. In her memoirs she wrote that when the miners’ strike began in March 1984, steel plants including Port Talbot, Scunthorpe and Ravenscraig in Scotland had only three weeks of fuel stored.

Port Talbot steel-workers who take strike action to protect jobs deserve and will need all the support – including solidarity industrial action – that the trade union and Labour movement can give.

Socialist Labour Party, 13 April 2024

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