Steelworkers pay price of success

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Your report “What Next for Steel?” (Saturday Star) is sad news for the steel workers of Stocksbridge and Rotherham, but it is symptomatic of modern manufacturing.

Your readers may know that the UK is producing increasing amounts of manufactured goods – manufacturing doubled between 1958 and 2007 and, in 2003, manufactured goods accounted for 83 per cent of our exports.

However, many fewer people are employed because productivity gains mean more output can be produced with reduced employment.

In the home, a new labour-saving device is met with approval because it means more leisure time to spend with family and friends.

In the workplace, however, a new labour-saving device means misery for those whose labour has been (from the point of view of the employer) “saved”.

Because the UK steel industry increased its productivity by a factor of 8 between 1978 and 2006, it is inevitable there would be loss of employment in the sector.

On the other hand, if productivity did not grow, UK steelmakers would move production off-shore.

Thus both good news and bad news for the industry result in bad news for steelworkers.

No amount of national economic growth will reverse this trend.

However, it would seem our political leaders are unprepared to consider how we might change our economic stance to allow increased productivity to lead to increased prosperity, rather than, for employees, increased misery.

Kevin, Banner Cross