Community’s General Secretary, Roy Rickhuss has led the debate on the future of the steel industry at the TUC Annual Congress. Read his speech below.
President, delegates, Roy Rickhuss, moving the Composite on behalf of Community.
Congress, we met here last year as an industrial catastrophe was unfolding on Teesside.
News came through that SSI was on the brink of liquidation – a tragedy which put thousands out of work and decimated the Teesside community.
There is no doubt the Redcar steelworks closure was an act of industrial vandalism that should never have happened.
I know it could have been prevented had there been sufficient political will.
The furnace could and should have been protected as a national strategic asset.
But sadly the Tories chose to ignore the pleas of the workforce and turn their backs on Teesside.
They stood by as more than a century of steelmaking on Teesside came to an end.
Congress, one year on we must send a clear message from this hall – the tragedy of SSI must never, ever, be repeated.
And Congress the tragedy was foreseeable – the challenges for our industry go back a lot further than 12 months.
Community’s been calling for action for years.
Our campaign started at the time Chuka Umunna was Shadow BIS Secretary.
But because we don’t have a Labour government, all the steel unions have had to engage with is this Tory government.
And we’ve worked with the industry.
Identifying the 5 key challenges with UK Steel.
But the bedrock of the campaign has always been our members.
Steel families and their friends and supporters in their communities – all lifting up their voices to shout Save our Steel.
It gives me great pride to look out from this stage and recognise friends and colleagues from steel businesses the length and breadth of the UK who have led the campaign in their workplaces and communities:
From Celsa, from British Steel, from Tata Steel, Port Talbot, Llanwern, Trostre, Hartlepool, Corby, Newport, Cardiff, Wolverhampton, Rotherham, Shotton, Teesside, Motherwell and Scunthorpe.
And in particular I’d like to pay tribute to the steel MPs who have led the Save our Steel campaign in Westminster and been with us every step of the way over the past few years –
Not trying to grab the headlines but doing the diligent work in Westminster Hall debates, in opposition day debates, backbench debates, and at times it seemed that at every PMQ’s one of our MPs managed to get in a question on steel.
All designed to keep up the pressure.
Holding the government to account and keeping ministers feet to the fire.
And we have marched.
Marched through Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Newport, Port Talbot, Westminster, and even Brussels.
And because of our campaign: unions, steelworkers, politicians and industry working together, we’ve won action:
Compensation for industrial energy costs
Changes to procurement rules.
And even getting a Tory government to vote for some action against Chinese dumping.
But there is much more to be done.
We will not rest until we get the level playing field we need to compete.
We will not be silent until there is a long-term industrial strategy for steel.
We will NOT let the sun set on our industry nor let our steel communities be forgotten.
And finally, we will not let employers in the industry like Tata Steel use this steel crisis to attack our members.
Tata need to honour their moral and social responsibilities to those steel communities.
They need to guarantee a future for UK steel making.
That’s why the campaign to Save our Steel must continue.
We know the stakes are high and this is a battle we can’t afford to lose for this vital foundation industry.
An industry which is ours – nobody else’s.
For we as steelworkers are the guardians of the industry.
And with your support we must and we will Save our Steel.