Originally published in Nationalism Today, October 1980 Print
[The closure of the Consett steel works was covered by two items in issue 3 of Nationalism Today: the news report about the 'Economic nonsense' of the closure, and in a section of that issue's editorial – 'Is British Steel being sabotaged?']
AN INDEPENDENT audit into the British Steel Corporation's Consett steelworks has found that the Corporation's closure plans make "no economic or commercial sense whatsoever."
The investigation was carried out by a team of researchers led by Mr. John Carney at Durham University. Mr. Carney said that the BSC's decision to close the works would eliminate one of the lowest cost and most productive steelworks in Britain.
The key findings of the audit show that Consett, which is due to close in September, became one of the few profitable plants within the BSC in the past year. In fact BSC's own statistics show that Consett has among the lowest liquid steel production costs in the whole of the Corporation. The actual productivity at Consett last year was 240 tonnes a man year of liquid steel. The BSC average was 140, compared with the German average of 238 tonnes.
Furthermore, Consett has established an outstanding reputation with customers for high quality, reliability and flexibility.
In spite of this, the Steel Corporation is profoundly pessimistic about the future, claiming that the market for steel is collapsing. However, the audit from Durham University comprehensively refutes this pessimism. According to the audit, "the steel industry of the future needs to be flexible enough and skilled enough to make higher value quality steels. Consett excels precisely inproducing for that particular expanding segment of the market."
Mr. Carney says that the aim should be to ensure that Consett's potential is fully realised. "For this to happen BSC will not only have to alter its closure decision. A specific development plan will have to be drawn up to identify and exploit the growing opportunities in the market. Our audit provides a starting point for the planning that is required and which a competently run, commercially-minded organisation would have already devised and begun to implement."Not surprisingly the 3,500 workers, who face being made redundant because of the closure of Consett, were outraged when they learned of these new figures. At a meeting of the whole workforce held the day after the results of the audit were published a resolution was passed unanimously.
The resolution declares: "That we reject the British Steel Corporation plan to close the works, and that we fight with all our resources to secure a profitable long-term future for the works and thereby save the whole community."
THE BRITISH STEEL CORPORATION'S closure ot the Consett steelworks is social and economic madness.
It is social madness because the resulting 3,500 redundancies will give Consett the highest unemployment rate in Europe and will effectively destroy the whole community.
It is economic madness because the Consett steelworks is one of the most efficient and commercially viable plants in the whole of Europe. An independent audit has shown that Consett was one of the few profitable plants within the BSC last year. It was also by far the most productive plant in Britain, more productive in fact than its German rivals. (See page 4.)
So why is the British Steel Corporation so determined to close Consett?
Could it be that the management of the BSC are so incompetent that they are closing down the few economically viable plants in Britain, making the whole industry even less productive than, it is already? Or is it part of a deliberate plan to sabotage the whole British steel industry, leaving the way open for a German steel monopoly of the inter-dependent economic bloc which is the aim of the EEC? Either way, the closure of Consett will lead to the further decline of the British steel industry, making Britain more and more dependent on foreign steel.