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Chaplain appeals to churches after steel redundancies

23 October 2015


On the streets: workers leave Tata Steel, in Motherwell, on Tuesday

On the streets: workers leave Tata Steel, in Motherwell, on Tuesday

REDUNDANCIES at the Tata Steel plant in Scunthorpe will have an effect on far more than the 900 people who lose their jobs, the area’s industrial chaplain, the Revd Peter Vickers, said this week.

“It’s a worrying time for the area. You can’t just lose nearly a thousand jobs and it not have an effect,” he said. “The ripple effect will be felt an awful lot wider than Scunthorpe itself.”

As well as the job losses at the Tata plant in Scunthorpe, the company announced 270 redundancies at Motherwell and Cambuslang, in Scotland, effectively ending steelmaking north of the border. They follow the loss of 2200 posts at the SSI plant on Teesside last month, and the news last week that administrators have been appointed to parts of the steel firm Caparo.

On Tuesday, Mr Vickers spent the day of the announcement with the workforce. “For each person made redundant,” he said, “there are at least three more affected in the immediate family. You can multiply that by four for the wider community, and that multiplies again if you bring in the supply chain which includes firms outside North Lincolnshire.

“People will be surprised just how far the ripples spread. The uncertainty that will cause will continue to spread for several days yet.”

He is contacting all the town’s churches, asking them to get involved. “They can get people to stop and to breathe,” he said. “Over the next few weeks, people will have important decisions to make, and they need to be taken calmly and clearly.

“I am asking churches to offer places of space so people know there is somewhere they can just go and be. . . To give people the opportunity to talk and know that someone is listening.

“I am also challenging churches to become a reference point; so if someone comes asking about, say, housing, they know where to send them for help.”

The redundancies have been blamed on cheap Chinese imports, high energy prices, and the strong pound. There were jeers in the House of Commons on Tuesday when the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, answered an emergency question on the job losses as the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, drove close by, to Buckingham Palace, as part of a state visit.

Mr Javid told MPs that there was “no straightforward solution to the complex global challenges facing the steel industry”, but he had already promised £80 million to help those affected, and had set up a task force. The steel surplus was depressing prices, however, he said, and no government could dictate the price of steel or foreign exchange rates.

The General Secretary of the steelworkers’ union Community, Roy Rickhuss, said: “The Government should hang its head in shame at today’s news. The cruel irony of the Prime Minister welcoming the Chinese Premier as UK steel jobs are cut, partly due to Chinese steel dumping, will not be lost on the UK’s steelworkers.”

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