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Workers march on Parliament

BSC Chairman, Lord Melchett, visits Shotton on 9th January, meeting management and workers’ representatives to outline the steps to be taken to reduce the social impact resulting from a loss of some 6,500 jobs between 1975 and 1979. Questioned on Shotton’s disabilities, he answers:” Its iron and steel making is old fashioned and high cost. Open hearths all over the world are being closed in favour of the basic oxygen process. A comprehensive location study was done covering the whole of the UK and Shotton did not come out as an attractive site for an entirely new steelworks, which was the issue.”

On January 25th, Shotton workers march on Parliament at the start of start of a long and vigorous campaign against the end of steelmaking after seventy years. The campaign is spearheaded by a multi-union workers’ action committee and has the support of the entire Deeside community. It will extend over the next six years.

Over 2,000 employees march to the House of Commons as the Steel Bill is being debated. The demonstration is boisterous but mostly good humoured as men and women march from the Festival Hall, headed by a brass band of steelworks employees. There are, however, a few clashes with the police with the band’s bass drum being confiscated during a scuffle and taken to Cannon Street Police Station. It was later returned to the drummer at a cost of £5.00!

Some 200 demonstrators are allowed into the lobbies of the House to see their MPs. Lord Melchett (BSC Chairman), who was in the House of Lords for the debate, left the chamber to speak to the demonstrators. The Government’s proposals for BSC to invest £3,000m in the modernisation of the industry is approved by 280 votes to 250.

John Powell, aged 49, previously Director, Tinplate Group, Strip Mills Division, is appointed Director in charge of Shotton Works.

With a new Director at the helm, sixty production records are broken during the year and the weekly output of coated steel strip reaches 12,000 tonnes. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing well,” is management’s message to employees.

BSC’s rationalisation plans, particularly those that affect Shotton, lead to the resignation from executive positions within the Corporation of Tim Summers, son of Sir Richard Summers, and Stephen Gray, son of Reith Gray.