Working for you
There was a very welcome piece of good news last week when it was announced that a buyer had been found for Lanarkshire’s last two steel plants, Clydebridge and Dalzell.
Liberty House, an international metals firm, has said it plans to get both plants up and running again as soon as possible, and executive chair Sanjeev Gupta pledged to “restore them to their former glory, steadily rebuilding their skilled workforces and customer base.”
Of course this is a fantastic result for those staff still working at the plants, who had completed the remaining orders held by the former owners, Tata Steel, and who then ensured the plants were mothballed in a way that they could quickly be returned to production if a buyer was found.
But it is also good news for many other workers who had been let go and who now will hopefully find that their skills and experience are needed once again.
It goes without saying that there are significant benefits for the whole local community too, if scores of people are back in work and this key industrial base has been secured.
It is of much less importance, but I have to say that the emergence of a new owner is also one in the eye for those who shrugged their shoulders and said the plants would never reopen.
I can understand why some people feared the steel plants would suffer the same fate as previous economic casualties like Philips in Hamilton, Haemonetics in Bothwell, Freescale and the Rolls Royce in East Kilbride, or parts of the coal industry, such as at Broken Cross in Coalburn.
As I wrote in my column here last October, no-one wanted to see Clydebridge and Dalzell go the same way, and that is why South Lanarkshire Council never resigned itself or gave up hope.
That ’ s why we quickly joined forces with the Scottish Government in the Scottish steel taskforce, on which we were joined by the UK Government, trade unions, Scottish Enterprise, North Lanarkshire Council and other interested parties.
I was proud that we played a significant role in the work of the taskforce, which met seven times at the council’s Hamilton headquarters for discussion and updates. At no time in those meetings did we ever give up hope that Clydebridge and Dalzell had a viable future.
That’s a lesson for all of us in what remain difficult economic times. We should never give up hope – not individuals, if they find themselves out of work, nor the agencies who are responsible for helping those individuals back into employment or are asked to step in when large scale redundancies occur.
I’m proud that South Lanarkshire Council is involved every day in helping such individuals. In 2014/ 15 our employability programme, South Lanarkshire Works 4U, offered help to 4,000 unemployed people, and 1,600 of them moved into work.
In the current year, by December another 1,767 people had been given support with 739 moving back into work.
We have now played a key role in saving Clydebridge and Dalzell too. As a union leader at the Hoover factory in Cambuslang, I worked for decades trying to protect jobs in a traditional local industry, so I knew exactly what the steel workers, their families and their communities were going through. That’s why I wanted the council to offer every possible support it could to the work of the taskforce.
It was important that every effort went into keeping Clydebridge and Dalzell open. Not just because of the jobs involved and the impact on workers and their families, but also because of the strategic long- term importance of retaining a local steel industry and the skills that go with it.
I am delighted that everyone’s work has paid dividends and that the plants will continue to be a source of local employment and community pride.
Working together Fergus Ewing MSP chairs a taskforce meeting in Hamilton flanked by Councillor Eddie McAvoy