Corus faced with a national strike

Industrial action at Corus’ Scunthorpe plant is set to spread to the rest of the country if the steelmaker rejects union plans to avoid 6,000 job losses.

Mike Leahy, leader of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, warned that unless Corus listens to the union’s proposals at a meeting to be held on Tuesday, strikes could follow.

‘If the company will not listen to the argument of reason, they will have to listen to the argument of force. People are extremely angry because they have approached this issue in a rational way and this has been dismissed,’ Leahy said.

The troubled Anglo-Dutch company announced earlier this year that 6,000 workers would be made redundant to stem huge losses caused by a fall in steel prices and an unfavourable exchange rate.

But Corus agreed to wait until the end of this month before making the redundancies, giving unions time to propose an alternative plan to minimise the cuts.

Most of the jobs are set to go in South Wales, where last week Corus told workers at the Llanwern and Ebbw Vale plants that their outline proposals were economically unviable. The plans were thought to include an agreement to close Ebbw Vale and reduce costs at the larger Llanwern site. A message of rejection also went to workers at the Teeside plant.

Following the rejections, and in response to the compulsory redundancy notices in Scunthorpe, workers voted for an overtime ban. The unions said this action would continue until an agreement is reached with Corus.

A national steel rescue plan, essentially a more detailed version of the outline proposal, will be presented to Corus’ management on 27 March.

Union leaders Sir Ken Jackson of the AEEU and the ISTC’s Mike Leahy met trade secretary Stephen Byers on Monday to discuss their offer before they meet Corus.An ISTC spokesman told The Engineer that if Corus rejects the plan, workers could vote for permanent withdrawal of overtime.

The ISTC has received ballot requests from workers at Llanwern. Alan Brown, AEEU union representative, at Llanwern, said: ‘The mood is dreadful, we’re gearing up for closure come September. The men might decide on a ballot for industrial action.’

A Corus spokesman warned that strikes would be counter productive to the union cause. ‘Any industrial action will harm relations with customers and endanger jobs in the industry.’

He said Corus would wait and see how Tuesday’s meeting went before deciding on a response to the rescue plan on the day.

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