Unite steel campaign goes to ShunkFest

Unite steel campaign makes waves at Port Talbot music festival in call to politicians to act

Reading time: 4 min

Unite took its Workers’ Plan for Steel campaign straight to the heart of Port Talbot, at the ShunkFest 2023 music and culture festival last weekend (October 14-15).

ShunkFest featured more than two dozen bands, including headliners, alt-rock band Trampolene and ‘shoegaze’ duo Pastel, over the two days of the festival.

Unite’s organising and leverage team in Wales ran a stall at the festival to highlight the challenges facing the UK’s steel industry and the union’s calls to ensure the sector and its dedicated workers have a bright future.

Organisers running the stall spoke to festival goers from all walks of life and asked them to sign the steel campaign’s petition.  

Retired Port Talbot steelworker and Unite member Malcolm Gullam spoke at the festival in an impassioned defense of the industry and the communities that rely on it.

“I am from Port Talbot and live in Cwmafan, so I know how important steel is to the Welsh and UK economy,” he said in his speech.

Highlighting Unite’s campaign to support the steel industry and its attendant communities, including Port Talbot, Scunthorpe, Redcar, Sheffield and others, he noted, “For too long the UK steel industry has suffered from patchy investment and short-term vision.”

Malcolm spoke of the significant investment needed for a just transition from present-day ‘dirty steel’ to ‘green steel’ and how workers cannot be made to pay the price for the transition.

“Our politicians, of all stripes, need to stand up and commit to securing a long-term future for the industry, before steel communities like ours suffer the same fate as mining an industrial communities did in the 1980s,” he said. “Back then the government sat idly by and allowed communities to suffer. They can’t be allowed to do the same again.”

He outlined two key demands of Unite’s Workers’ Plant for Steel, including changing procurement rules to let UK public contracts use 100% UK steel — a measure that would alone create 8,000 jobs – as well as public investment for a steelworkers’ transition plan with no loss of jobs. The transition to green steel, Malcolm noted, must be phased. In the process, capacity must be doubled to rebuild the industry and grow jobs.

Unite estimates that £1bn in investment will be needed each year for 12 years – but such investment would pay for itself in increased revenue.

Urging everyone to support the campaign and get involved, Malcolm noted, “For our communities to thrive they need decent jobs. It is the role of government to ensure that communities have secure futures.”

Festival goers and band members alike flocked to Unite’s stall to take photos and sign the petition – see highlights in photos below. Find out more about Unite’s steel campaign here.

By Hajera Blagg