'Sick Christmas card' for 2,500 Scunthorpe steelworkers facing redundancy
THERE was no festive good cheer for more than 2,500 Scunthorpe steelworkers and their families in mid-December 1980 when the British Steel Corporation announced plans to close the Normanby Park works site on the outskirts of the town.
The corporation was then being overseen by chairman Sir Ian MacGregor.
There was a famous, biting comment from that year's Scunthorpe Mayor, Councillor Fred Dring, who described the timing of the announcement as "Mr MacGregor's sick Christmas card".
The prospect of losing their jobs could hardly have come at a worse time of year for the affected employees.
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But tough-talking Sir Ian announced it as his plan "to save BSC" and said if it didn't work the corporation would be on its way to liquidation.
The plan included the total closure of Scunthorpe's Normanby Park works and the No 1 rod mill at Appleby-Frodingham.
He warned: "It is urgent. Each time the clock ticks we lose £30. Even governments can't afford that.
"Make no mistake, what we are talking about is survival."
Mr MacGregor set out his rescue package in a four-page special edition of Steel News, sent to every worker.
"The plan, which will decide the fate of British Steel within seven months, is an urgent mix of closures, manpower cuts mainly through more efficient working, aggressive selling and cost-cutting which will affect every works, department and office in BSC," he warned.
"It is an all-out attack on our own failings and failures … and on outside pressures like high energy costs which make us less competitive than the opposition."
The survival plan was being discussed with unions and the Government against the background of BSC's losses in the first half of the financial year which ended on September 27, 1980.
"Our total trading loss, after depreciation and interest, was £279 million," he said.
"And it is certain that the losses in the second six months will be even worse, because of the state of the market."
Every taxpayer in Britain was said to be paying out more than £40 a year to support BSC in late 1980.
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