Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, today visited Redcar to meet former SSI steelworkers and young apprentices with the area's Labour MP Anna Turley.
Owen and Anna started the afternoon at Community Union offices at Cargo Fleet in South Bank where former steelworkers and union officials recounted the fight to save the steelworks and their experience of redundancy and the death of their industry on Teesside.
They then visited technical training company, TTE, to meet former SSI apprentices and other young people starting out on their careers in engineering and other vocations.
Owen took part in a training session with some students and talked with them about their ambitions for the future.
Speaking after the visit, Anna said:
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to welcome Owen to Redcar and to introduce him to some of the men working to rebuild their lives after the closure of the steelworks. Whilst some have found new work, many are still struggling to access the training and support they need to move forward. It was good that Owen could hear these issues first-hand and I know he will help make sure Teesside’s case continues to be heard in Parliament.
“I was also pleased the tremendous work of Community Union in supporting the workforce throughout this crisis was recognised by Labour’s shadow ministerial team.
“At TTE, Owen was really impressed by the facilities on offer and was keen to hear from the apprentices about what they hoped to achieve following their training. As we begin to look to the future and the challenge of regenerating the local economy, resources like TTE educating a new generation of electricians, engineers and technicians will be a key part of attracting new industries here.”
Owen Smith, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said:
"It was a privilege to be on Teesside today and to meet with steelworkers who have lost their jobs. The dignity and strength with which they have faced this crisis has been quite remarkable.
“The efforts made by local Labour MP, Anna Turley, and the superb representatives of the Community Trade Union, to speak for the men in Parliament and in the vital, local Taskforce has also been crucial, and has played a central part in securing new work for up to 800 of the men.
“However significant challenges still face the community and especially those still seeking work and I will be urging the Tory Government to clear any obstacle that might stand in the way.
“Steelworkers on Teesside have been the backbone of British industry for generations and we owe them nothing less than the fullest support in this, their hour of need. Labour is determined to learn from the mistakes being made by the current government. We cannot afford to allow the end of steel production in the UK and the Government needs, even now, to pull its finger out and do something about the dumping of Chinese steel and the sky-high energy prices that are killing jobs here on Teesside, as in South Wales and at Scunthorpe.”
Paul Warren, an organiser for Community, the steelworkers’ union said:
“Meeting with Owen Smith and Anna Turley today was a good opportunity to voice our concerns about how former SSI steelworkers are struggling to access training and help from Job Centre Plus and the National Careers services. The TV cameras might have left Redcar, but we still have thousands of families struggling to get by and former steelworkers still looking for work. Both Owen and Anna clearly understand the problems still facing our town and will continue to be strong voices for Redcar and the whole UK steel industry in Parliament. In particular, it was encouraging to hear that Labour fully understands the need for changes in employment legislation to protect contractor workers. When SSI collapsed, it was the contractor staff who were too often forgotten, we need to change the law to make sure they have the same protection as those people directly employed.”