Friday, 15 August 2008

Steel Town

I do love the image caught in this photograph of Lysaghts (Scunthorpe) steel works, taken in about I think the early 1960s, and the cars not bad.
Lysaghts was decommissioned and shutdown about twenty years or so ago, the funny thing is that where a steel works once stood, a chicken food processing plant operates today, executing over a million chicken's a week for major food outlets in the UK. I remember, and not so long ago that you could set your watch by the sea of traffic coming and going, too and from the works at the end and beginning of each shift at Lysaghts, most of the traffic was bicycles or mopeds running on the fuel by-product obtained illegally, from the coke ovens department, the stuff use to fall into a trough, and it was easy to fill up your tank with it, although it did mess your bike up after a time, still it was free....Oh happy days!
Steel is nevertheless still being made at the Scunthorpe works of Corus, formerly the Appleby-Frodingham Steel Company, and has been since 1890 and remains one of the UKs premier steel plants with the currant capacity of 4.8 Mt/year of liquid steel. The works an integrated site today with a somewhat unique mix of products including heavy plates, sections, semi-finished billets and slabs, wire rods fabricated construction products and rails.
I have admittedly, an admiration for steelworkers having grown up amongst them and for a while having been an operative on the coke ovens. It was not surprising to fined out that according to the environment agency; in the year 2000, Scunthorpe was the home to one of the biggest polluting businesses in the United Kingdom.

When I worked on the steelworks so did 27,000 of my neighbours today the workforce is just under 4,000. The defining moment for steel came during Thatcher's first term and the 1980 steel strike. In some ways looking back it seemed to be a kind of rehearsal for what was to come in the form of the miner's strike. At the time this state-owned steel industry (The British Steel Corporation) was saddled with comparatively technologically backward plant, and was struggling to put it mildly, in the face of much more competitively prices imported steel. The biggest Trade Union the ISTC was led by one of the most rightwing, servile bureaucracies in the whole labour movement, headed by Bill Sirs, who would later go on to become one of Thatcher's friends due to his encouraging of strikebreaking in the 1984-85 miners strike. When the closure of a number of steel works was announced at the end of 1979, the union called a strike and stayed out until April 1980, when the leadership threw in the towel. Steelworkers Fought, and fought hard, with pickets being dispatched to try and stop the use of steel by British Layland and other companies. On a number of occasions, steelworkers were brutally beaten by the police. In the aftermath of the defeated steel strike, came the jobs massacre. The BSC chairman Sir Charles Villiers was replaced by hot-shot Ian McGregor who sacked tens of thousands of steelworkers. Again McGregor was involved in something that seemed to be a dry run rehearsal - for the role of butcher he was subsequently appointed by Thatcher to enact against the miners. And the rest is history.

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