DAVID DURANT is one of the founding members of Solidarity Trade Union. He is also a member of its ruling body, the National Executive. One of Mr. Durant’s main concerns is to ensure someone represents the voice of the British worker in a world of ‘Globalisation’. David believes that establishment Trade Unions acquiesce too easily to the movement of cheap labour to and capital from the UK rather than fight it head on.
To illustrate some of his concerns, he looked at a recent Solidarity news article – Could workers action save Corus? - concerning possible strike action at the steelworks on Teesside.
Mr. Durant noted that steel has been produced on the banks of the River Tees for around 170 years. “The steelworks at the heart of the Solidarity article is known as Teesside Cast Products (TCP) and is based in Redcar.”
However, TCP is owned by Corus and is described as a ‘Long Products Division.’ Corus describe themselves as “Europe's second largest steel producer with annual revenues of around £12 billion and a crude steel production of over 20 million tonnes.”
However, Corus is a subsidiary of Tata Steel Group (TSG). Based in India, TSG is part of the multinational Tata Group. As well as steel, the Tata Group has interests in cars, IT, communication, power, tea and hospitality.
TSG took over Corus (itself an Anglo-Dutch concern – formed in October 1999 through the merger of British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens) in January 2007. Tata Steel purchased a 100% stake in the Corus Group, a deal which is thought to have cost $12.04 Billion. The deal represented the largest Indian takeover of a foreign company and made Tata Steel the world's fifth-largest steel group.
Mr. Durant said he was worried by this sort of foreign ownership of British industry.
Talking specifically about the situation on Teesside he said:
“I’ve seen reports that the unions have issued Corus a two-week deadline to find a buyer for TCP. Otherwise they’ll face the threat of national strikes by thousands of steelworkers UK-wide.
Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a consortium step in and snap up TSG at a bargain price. However, I wouldn’t count on the Teesside Cast Products plant re-opening in Redcar. Any new owner will more than likely asset-strip the mothballed plant, shut up shop and relocated abroad.”
He also expressed support for the view of Pat Harrington, the General Secretary of Solidarity, who late last month had said: "If the Government can find the money to prop up the banks - and bail out the fat cats - why can’t they help ordinary British workers?"
He said “Mr. Harrington is right. As soon as the steel industry in Teesside got into trouble, it should have been nationalized.”
Mr. Durant also expanded on his views regarding the ownership of British industry:-
”Anything that is vital to national sovereignty of Britain should be nationalised. For starters, all heavy industry, energy and national transport like the trains should come under state protection.
I’m not interested in a policy of imperialism but Britain should be able to defend herself. We shouldn’t be in ridiculous position of having to have foreign-owned concerns build any part of our defensive capabilities. We must retain the capacity to build ships, planes, tanks, weapons and so on.
How these vital industries (operating under state protection) run themselves is another problem. Is there any point in replacing ‘international’ capitalism with ‘national’ capitalism. I don’t think so! The best solution would be for the workforce to have actual ownership of the workplace. In my view that would be best run on some form of co-operative or national syndicalist lines.”
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