«1978 1979 1979-1980 »

“Heavy end” closure to go ahead

Shotton participates in the first Cheshire Industries Fair at Chester with a stand which highlights the works’ importance within the area. Over 1,000 employees live in Chester. The works has an annual turnover of £192 million and is paying out £57 million in wages and salaries, £2.5 million in rates, and spending over £20 million on local coal, electricity and gas. The works is using as much power and energy daily as the city of Chester – 1.8 million kilowatt hour units of electricity, 75,000 therms of natural gas, 200,000 gallons of oil and 40 million gallons of water. Although intended as an exercise in public relations, the fair brought several commercial enquiries and created interest in career opportunities for school leavers and students.

Garden City housing estate, developed by John Summers and Sons between 1910 and 1925, changes hands. Over 80 of the 283 houses have been sold privately by BSC in recent years, mainly to tenants, and the remaining 196 have been acquired by Collingwood Housing Association Limited, of Manchester.

On 12th July, BSC confirms its intention to end iron and steelmaking and hot rolling operations at Shotton in 1981. Rapid deterioration of Shotton’s financial performance brought about mainly by escalating oil prices and a declining market for strip mill products causes the Corporation to review the position of the works again. This time the plan also includes rationalisation of the finishing end activities at the works.

The back lash of flagging demand for steel is felt across the industry. Massive widespread cuts are planned as orders dwindle but nowhere will the eventual loss of jobs be as great as at Shotton.

Faced with a dwindling order book and a forecast loss of £45m at Shotton in the current financial year (1979/80) and a predicted £60m loss the following year, BSC announces job losses of approx. 6,400 at the works, to leave a workforce of 4,200 in the Cold Strip Mill and Coatings departments. The on-going departments will in future process some 15,000 tonnes of hot rolled strip a week, delivered by rail from BSC works at Ravenscraig in Scotland (11,000 tonnes) and Port Talbot and Llanwern in South Wales (4,000 tonnes).

A counselling centre is opened at Shotwick on the outskirts of the main works in December to help the thousands of employees facing redundancy to adapt to the change in their circumstances, and intensive efforts are made to attract new industries and create new jobs in the area.

The December issue of STEEL NEWS, the works’ employee newspaper, includes a pull out guide to the counselling service would will advise on job opportunities both in and outside the Corporation, offer re-training in new skills, teach interviewing techniques and advise on self employment, starting a new business and financial matters. Special help is available to the disabled.

BSC-trades union agree closure terms

On 20th December agreement is reached between BSC and the works’ trades unions on the phased closure of the “heavy end” by March 1980. The plan is to phase the closure between December 1979 and the following March with the loss of 6,400 jobs, leaving 4,200 in the cold mill and coatings departments. No community in living memory has faced the prospects of such a large and rapid loss of job opportunities in such a short time and special financial severance terms are agreed.

At national level, still in December, trades unions reject a BSC pay offer tied to a lump sum bonus scheme and call a national strike, the first in the industry since 1926. Management claims the offer has been “misunderstood” by the unions. The national steel strike means that the plan for a phased closure at Shotton over the first quarter of 1980 never got off the ground. Instead some 7,000 men and women clocked off at Christmas 1979 never to return other than for counselling.

Iron and steel making operations end

Only the second major industrial dispute in the long history of Shotton brings a premature end to iron and steelmaking.