Unite delegate and steel worker Mark ‘Pasty’ Turner spoke in support of a motion on Tuesday (September 11) on steel as he highlighted the latest threats to the industry since Unite’s initial Save our Steel campaign in 2015.
“The Save our Steel campaign – representing unity between trade unions in the steel industry and strengthened by the solidarity of our movement – brought steel back from the brink,” Pasty said, but warned that the industry “faces a new threat.”
“It’s loud. It’s orange. It’s mostly found on Twitter. But comically absurd as he is – the trade war Donald Trump is hell-bent on launching threatens to take the recovering steel industry back to the worst days of 2015,” Pasty noted.
He pointed out to conference that notwithstanding Trump’s tweets, the “true issue facing steel is the same as it was in 2015 – global overcapacity.”
“Cheap steel continues to be dumped on the market by with cheap steel being dumped on the market by China, Turkey, Russian and at least ten other countries.
“The answer is not to lurch between Trump-style protectionism or unrestricted ‘free’ trade which we could have under this Tory government, especially if we have a Brexit no deal that could threaten not just steel but our whole manufacturing base in the UK.
Pasty called on conference to “find a new solution,” one that he said must be “based on solidarity; on re-writing the rules of international trade to benefit workers in all countries.”
“Trade is not a no-holds-barred, sum total game. It must be about mutual benefit,” he went on to say.
He explained how Unite is working closely with American and Canadian trade unionists of the United Steelworkers through the global union Workers Uniting. Unite is likewise working with European metal unions through IndustriALL.
“We are making sure that our internationalism is strong enough to weather whatever Trump and his type plus Brexit can throw at us,” he said.
Past told conference that the industry will keep facing new threats if we cannot answer simple questions such as ‘Do we understand the value of having a steel industry?’ or ‘Do we understand what it means for communities – from Wales to Scotland?’ or even ‘Do we understand what it means for the future of UK manufacturing?’
“If we do – and conference I believe we all do,” he said, “then we must campaign now to place the industry right in the heart of a radical, economic programme for change.
“We must see a proper sector deal that tackles the long term issues of the industry, whilst also being part of a proper manufacturing strategy for the UK. We should see a procurement strategy which means major projects like the new naval frigates are not only built in Britain – but are built using steel from Britain,” he added.
Pasty likewise called for strong trade defences put in place to shield jobs from “the destructive America First agenda of Donald Trump and the economic vandalism of Chinese dumping.”
“Conference, I call on you to stand with steel workers,” Pasty concluded to applause. “Stand with us now, as you have stood with us since the crisis of 2015. Save our steel and save UK manufacturing.”
The motion was carried.