The devastating news about job cuts in the Welsh steel industry will have brought back sharp memories of the demise of the coal industry during the 1980s and the impact that had on our communities.
The Rhondda has yet to recover from the closure of the pits when thousands of people were thrown out of work.
Our local economy lost millions of pounds. Businesses had to shut up shop and many people struggled to keep a roof over their heads. I know there were members of my own family who lost work in the wake of those closures and found it extremely difficult to find alternative employment afterwards.
Fast forward 40 years’ and the steel industry is facing similar challenges. Around 1,000 jobs in Port Talbot, Newport and Llanelli are to be axed by Tata. The future of the UK’s largest steel plant is in doubt unless action is taken now to save the industry.
It is not just the steel jobs that will go. What will happen to the suppliers to the plant, the local cafés and shops? Some steel-workers may never work again, as happened to many miners.
As well as giving immediate support to the workers, Plaid Cymru wants the Labour First Minster to look at all options to support and secure the steel industry, including taking a temporary public sector stake in the company, as has happened in Germany and Italy when their steel industries face a similar crisis. That should be, in addition, to seeking help on energy and action on an EU level against dumping of Chinese steel. Labour’s leader supports renationalisation of steel, while the First Minister is reluctant to act. This makes it unclear as to what the party’s position is on this.
Manufacturing has declined in recent years. People would never forgive us if we allowed the steel industry to go the same way as the coal industry did, without a proper fight.