Sahaviriya Steel Industries’ (SSI) decision to restart its blast furnace this weekend at its north east England site in Teesside is welcome news for the UK Steel Industry. The first steel slabs are likely to be produced over the next three days.
This shows that there is a future for Steel in this country and if we ever get a government that will invest in manufacturing and construction sectors that future could and should be bright.
The town of Redcar will be lifted by this announcement but unfortunately one person is not around to see the restarting of a furnace he campaigned passionately to save.
Geoff Waterfield sadly passed away last August after leading a long running campaign to save the industry he had worked all his life for.
He will be represented by his partner Sheryl Petite at the ceremony witnessing what Geoff always believed would happen.
The furnace was mothballed in February 2010 ashamedly under the watch of a Labour Government who were intent upon bailing out bankers whilst ignoring the pleas of a staple industry.
This did not deter the trade unions and the Teesside community who together launched a campaign that Geoff led and involved support from the remaining steelworks throughout the country. This was evident at Scunthorpe where Unite reps were influential in the decision to pledge industrial action in order to persuade the owners to sit down and talk to prospective buyers.
Hopefully this will now lead to a more united front by the steel unions who have been weakened in the past by the perpetual struggle for survival that has pitted plant against plant and worker against worker.