The mothballing of the blast furnace and steelmaking at Teesside Cast Products (TCP) UK commenced on 19 February.

The Community Union claim that several possible offers to keep the plant open were not followed up by Corus and therefore industrial action designed to cause maximum damage to the company with minimum damage to the workforce will start.

Community will be giving its members the opportunity to ballot for industrial action in support of Teesside. A mass walkout is not planned but surgical strikes that will cause maximum damage to Tata Corus and minimum damage to Corus employees.

The mothballing will see 1600 steel workers made redundant and a further 8000 jobs lost in the surrounding community, say union officials. General Secretary of Community, Michael Leahy, said: “Tata Corus have walked away from Teesside. We know that there are a number of good faith offers on the table, yet Tata Corus are not interested”.

In January, Corus agreed to the Trade Unions’ request to extend operations at Teesside Cast Products until all the raw materials currently on site had been consumed, or until the end of February, whichever was first. The Union believe that calling this ‘mothballing’ is simply sugar coating a closure. A redundancy from a mothballed plant is the same as a redundancy from a closed plant.

The message from Community is that they will not give up on 150 years of steelmaking on Teesside. The plant, which has a single blast furnace, but UK’s largest at a nominal 3Mt/y capacity, is a strategic resource and the foundation for a rejuvenated British manufacturing industry, say the union.

Other sources estimate it would cost some £50M to restart the plant once it has been closed. Any closure of South Bank Coke Ovens as originally proposed would require a complete relining of the silica refractories before any possible re-start.