Wednesday, 29 June 2011

In The Black

This post is a conclusion to Steel Yourself - a look back at the Consett Steelworks

On the 9th of July 1980, Steelworkers went to hand in a 20,000 signature petition to 10 Downing street but no minister form the Thatcher Government would come and meet them. Its not surprising really the attitude of the government towards the steelworkers was one of utter contempt. Tory journalist Auberon Waugh sums this up in the Spectator in 1979, just 6 months before the steelworks closed
"I have been making forays into the North East to taunt the 'workers' there... there would be plenty of work in the North East if anyone thought they would do it properly... Politicians should visit the region to remind themselves of the immovable stupidity envy and hatred"

Despicable writing, but Tory attitudes really changed? With cuts imposed on Surrey Council at approximately £4 per head of population and cuts to Gateshead council at £48 a head the answer is that they may not come out and speak publicly in the same terms as they did in the 1980s but actions such as this speak as loud as words.

There are similarities between the situation at the steelworks and the situation at my employer Newcastle College, I am not in any way suggesting that 200 people being made redundant from the largest FE College in the country causes the same level of hardship and misery as 4500 redundancies and the closure of a towns main employer, but the individuals made redundant will feel just as rejected, dejected and frankly, ejected from a workplace to which they have given several years of dedicated teaching/hard graft.

One striking similarity between the steelworks and Newcastle College is the level of profit/surplus involved. In each month leading up to the closure of the steelworks the Consett site made profits of around £900 000. Last year Newcastle College made a surplus of around £10.4M which is about £867 000 per month; depressingly close. The banner carried by those steelworkers to London on the 9th of July 1980 could be loaned to Newcastle College staff almost 31 years later, it would need no modification; it simply read IN THE BLACK FACED WITH THE SACK

No comments: