There will be some post-Christmas celebrations on Teesside when steel making resumes at Redcar on January 6th. Previous owners Tata mothballed the plan in February 2010 before it was bought for £291 million by Thai firm, SSI this March.
Dorman Long founded Teesside steelworks in 1917 and the steel produced was used to build the Sydney Harbour and Tyne Bridge’s. Over the years thousands have relied on the works for a living, whilst it’s estimated that for each job on site another three people are employed in supply chain companies.
Unite, in conjunction with the other unions on site, therefore fought hard to keep it open. A large demonstration was organised, leaflets were distributed in there thousands, politicians were lobbied and House of Commons visits organised. Expert help was employed to look for new customers and buyers, and a constant stream of press releases and appearances on the television kept the issue alive and helped bring it to the attention of potential purchasers.
Unite convenor Kevin Cook, who has worked in the Teesside steel industry for over 35 years is looking forward to seeing steel slabs again role out of the plant and says’ “It’s like a rebirth of the area, we’ve been informed there are around a thousand new jobs and then, hopefully, we can find additional customers to secure a long term future for Teesside Steel. “
Sadly the chairman of the multi-union committee that helped make all this possible won’t be there on January 6th. According to Cook, 43 year-old Geoff Waterfield of Community had become regionally known as, “That bloke from the works on the TV! But to those who knew him he was an inspirational leader who had put aside his own personal ambitions to fight for the whole employee population, their families and the future employees of this area. His high profile approach ensured Teesside Steel was rarely out of the news keeping hopes alive of a future for so many in the local community and prosperity for the area. He will be remembered in these parts for many years to come.” Waterfield died on August 31st.