Tuesday, 14 April 2015


On the 20-22 April the STUC Congress will be meeting in Ayr. The theme of this year's Congress is Decent Work and Dignified Lives. In the run up to Congress this blog will host a series of articles prepared by STUC affiliated unions. These articles reflect the positions and priorities of our affiliates and are designed to give a flavour of the disparate work that the trade union movement is undertaking in pursuit of decent work and dignified lives

MP for Motherwell and Wishaw and former steelworker, Frank Roy MP, summed it up well when he told Parliament "The people who ensure that we have steel are the people who ensure that we have oil rigs are in the North sea; that we have pipes bringing gas and oil from the furthest north; that we have a Channel tunnel reinforced with steel in the south; that we have the ships that sail from our ports, the planes that fly from our airports, the buses and cars that drive on our roads, the trains that go along our rail tracks, the bridges, the buildings and the white goods.  I could go on and on.  That is the steel industry of the 21st century."

Thus Frank demonstrated how steel is still integral to so many aspects of our lives, not least the jobs that steel provides and supports. This is why Community is calling on the Scottish and Westminster Governments to Stand up for Steel.

Scotland’s steel industry, predominantly supplied from Scunthorpe, still remains an integral part of many of the supply chains to which Frank referred. But if Scottish steel is to have a future then it needs the Governments in Scotland and Westminster to act.  There are a number of key demands that Community is making.

Perhaps the greatest impact that the Scottish Government could have would be through ensuring there is effective procurement to support Scotland’s steel industry and its upstream UK supply chain. Unfortunately, steel and procurement in Scotland are synonymous with the debacle of the steel contract for the Forth Road Bridge.  Short‑sighted procurement choices ended up with steel contracts being awarded to companies in Poland, Spain and China, when the Dalzell steelworks, less than 40 miles away, could have supplied thousands of tonnes of Scottish steel for the construction.

Last year’s publication of the Scottish Government’s Third National Planning Framework was another missed opportunity to think strategically about procurement in a way which could have yielded opportunities for Scottish steel.  Although infrastructure is mentioned 127 times and renewable energy 36 times, procurement doesn’t feature once.  Failure to consider the implications and opportunities for industrial supply chains within such major strategic planning will only store up trouble for the future.

But there are opportunities aplenty.  The Scottish and UK Governments could bring together diverse sectors such as defence and renewables with the Scottish steel industry.  It’s clear that if we stand back and let the markets dictate the future of the industry that not only will that threaten job security  it will also undermine the UK’s capacity in these key sectors exposing them to a risky reliance on overseas steel production.

For the sake of steelworkers and their communities from Clydebridge to Corby and Dalzell to Port Talbot we hope STUC colleagues will join our call to Governments to stand up for steel.

Roy Rickhuss
General Secretary, Community

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