Mark Turner, Unite rep from Port Talbot steel works, has campaigned tirelessly alongside his union to save Britain’s steel industry.
“Our steel industry has weathered one of the greatest moments of crisis in its long history,” he told conference.
“That crisis is far from over, but I am in no doubt that had it not been for our movement and the heroic ‘Save our Steel’ campaign the furnace lights would have dimmed across our industry – from Port Talbot to Scunthorpe,” added Turner.
Unite supports this motion because it is vital that we continue the campaign and make sure our members’ futures are secured.
“We know that the Tory government had to be forced kicking and screaming to take any action. We also know that assistance in the eleventh hour, at the height of an emergency, is simply not enough,” said Turner.
He went on to tell conference that what we need instead is a long term vision that sees steel as a foundation industry, the beating heart of an ambitious industrial strategy for Britain.
There is a growing demand for high quality steel for things such as the construction of new power plants to the assembly of electric vehicles
“We must stoke that demand and use it to guarantee high skilled secure jobs in a world class steel industry,” said Turner.
However Brexit presents our industry with new challenges and we must meet it with new ideas.
“We are told that the government wants to embark on a new era of free trade – signing us up to trumped up deals with America, China – and anyone else who will have us,” said Turner.
We must demand that the future of our steel industry is not offered up in exchange for a quick signature on any trade deal.
That means protecting steel from Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda and from the damage of Chinese dumping.
“This is why my union, alongside comrades from the GMB and Community, has been working on a series of trade defence remedies,” said Turner.
These defences must include enforceable labour rights and the legal right for trade unions to take up international trade disputes directly, rather than being reliant on our government to raise it at the World Trade Organising – a body which has never had working people’s interests in mind.
“At last year’s Congress I stated that we would not accept a crisis caused by government cowardice and that Teresa May bring a halt to the dumping of cheap, poor grade steel and not bottle it,” said Turner.
“With the onset of Brexit I make that call again, protecting not just steel but the whole manufacturing supply chain with a proper and fair industrial strategy,” he added.