Corus and Tata Steel, UK and India

In this issue, from Teesside and Scunthorpe in the UK to Orissa in India, the global mining and steel industry.

In Teesside, in England’s Northeast, the future of the workers of the Corus plant at Redcar is once again under threat as Corus owner Tata Steel is shelving plans to sell it. The unions are going to ballot for strike action:

Tempers frayed in London yesterday when company executives allegedly failed to turn up for a scheduled meeting with leaders of Community, Unite, GMB and UCATT which had been called to discuss restructuring of the steel industry, including the future of TCP.

Unions said it was “symptomatic of the way Corus has treated the workforce in the past months” and immediately sanctioned preparations for a ballot.

In a joint statement, they said: “We cannot hold off any longer. We have held off to give Corus the opportunity to deal with this issue with honesty and transparency but sadly this has not happened.”

A timetable for the ballot, which will commence on Teesside, will be issued next week. Corus, which only last week had cancelled issuing forced redundancy to more than 200 TCP staff and instead come up with a surprise £1.5m to pay them to stay in work-based training for at least three months, said it was “disappointed and surprised” the joint union statement.

Meanwhile, the local further education college, Redcar and Cleveland, is planning to make £2 million in cuts, which will lead to 1 in 5 jobs being axed, despite having gone through an ambitious capital expansion programme. These cuts threaten severe disruption to the possibilities of ex-Corus workers finding retraining opportunities.

Workers from the Corus plant in Scunthorpe, down the coast in South Humberside, took part in a Brussels protest on Thursday against speculation in commodity prices, which are putting jobs in the metal industry under threat across Europe.

A man was seriously injured at the Scunthorpe plant in an industrial accident on Friday. Corus faced four major health and safety fines in the last two months:

● £240,000 over the needless death of 22-year-old Ross Beddow, after three tons of steel plates loaded on to a lorry by a crane at Wombourne, Staffs, were not level and slipped on to Ross, killing him instantly.

● £10,000 over an explosion at a 75-metre steel chimney in Scunthorpe, where flammable gas wasn’t removed before welding work began.

● £100,000 after a worker’s crane overturned at Aldwarke Steel Works in Rotherham. He hadn’t been trained to use a safety alarm on the vehicle and had a lucky escape.

Investigative journalists at the Mirror note that the health and safety inspections that could halt these sorts of actions would be banned under a Conservative government, as part of their war on health and safety political correctness.

Meanwhile, in India, the parent company Tata is involved in bloodshed of a different kind, as it seeks to remove tribal people from their lands in a quest for resource exploitation. The business magazine Forbes put it like this:

On one side of the struggle are the rebels–perhaps 10,000 of them armed and out in the field every day, and a militia of 100,000 who can be called up on short notice. Driven by a violent ideology, the Naxalites claim to be fighting for the land rights of the poor, especially farmers and small indigenous tribes who know only an agrarian way of life. On the other side are the wealthy families behind Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Vedanta Resources (run by mining mogul Anil Agarwal), who want to develop the untapped resources. (The three companies rank 345, 1,131 and 923 on the Global 2000 list.) Caught in the middle of the conflict between Maoists and billionaires are thousands of villagers.

The frontline of the war is currently a “corridor” road which the Orissa state government wants to build through tribal lands in Kalinganagar. Tata claims to monitor the human rights situation have been laughed off by church groups and NGOs. According to several sources, Tata security forces alongside government officials have perpetrated a number of acts of violence against rural people in the last month, as part of an operation known as “Green Hunt”.

The violence peaked on 30 March with an incident in Balagootha in which over 30 villagers reportedly were wounded by bullets as Tata and government forces moved in, and widespread destruction of property including cattle occurred. This video, and others posted by the same user, show the violence. It seems that, as well as the injuries in the violence, at least three people have died due to not being able to access medical support because of the security actions: Ghanshyam Kalundia, Sikandar Kalundia and Balema Goipai.

For background, read Panos South Asia Caterpillar and the Mahua Flower [PDF, 849 KB]

Also read: Ian Jack: London’s Olympic tower is a monument to historical irony (on ArcelorMittal Orbit and Lakshmi Mittal, richest man in Europe.

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4 Responses to “Corus and Tata Steel, UK and India”

  1. what a great site and informative posts, I will bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

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