We must stand shoulder to shoulder at Sheffield steel rally - council leader

Julie Dore
Julie Dore
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At 2pm tomorrow, Sheffield City Hall will be hosting a national rally in support of the steel industry - writes Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore.

People will be coming from all over the country to our city – the Steel City – in a show of solidarity with those employed in the industry and to call on the government to support it.

Sheffield has an international reputation for steel making.

It was steel that helped to establish Sheffield as an industrial powerhouse during the 19th and 20th centuries. And although the industry has been in decline in recent decades it remains an important part of our economy, employing around 10,000 people in our region.

Like so many others, I was saddened to hear of the closure of the Redcar blast furnace and the news that Tata Steel is to cut 1,200 jobs, including many within Sheffield City Region.

The news took me back to the early 1990s when my husband, a steel worker at the time, was made redundant for the third time. The impact those redundancieshad on our family were profound.

The Tory government in power at that time failed to intervene to help my family. And the current one is repeating that mistake, sitting on their hands once again while workers lose their jobs and their ability to put food on the table.

It is symptomatic of this out of touch Tory government, which just doesn’t seem to understand the human impact of their policies.

As Labour and trade unions have been saying for months, there are concrete things that David Cameron can do to save our steel: Cut business rates for steel producers; tackle high energy bills; take action with the EU Commission to stop the dumping of cheap Chinese steel.

We must support strategic national industries like steel. The government must intervene and if necessary take a stake in the steel industry, as the Italian government has done.

The steel industry has been at the heart of local economies and communities across the country for decades.

And its decline is not inevitable – Germany has retained a strong steel sector, producing 43 million tonnes of steel a year, compared with just 12 million tonnes in the UK.

I am honoured to be invited to speak at this important event, and I’d urge you to come along.

I am confident that by standing shoulder to shoulder with steel workers and trade unions we can send a clear message to the government that they must act now to save our steel industry.