Steel in Scunthorpe: ‘I fear for the future - my sons will not have a job’

Neil Dawson stages a one man protest outside the Tata Steelworks in Scunthorpe as it was announced that 900 jobs were to be axed. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Neil Dawson stages a one man protest outside the Tata Steelworks in Scunthorpe as it was announced that 900 jobs were to be axed. Picture: Scott Merrylees
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Steel courses through Tony Gosling’s blood - just as it does through the town of Scunthorpe.

More than a century ago his great grandfather was working in the industry - but now the steelworker fears his sons, the fifth generation, will not be following a proud family tradition.

The father of four boys was among 900 workers given the devastating news today that their jobs face the axe - ironically just as the site’s major incident alarm - rather like a WW2 siren - was getting its regular airing.

The 50-year-old works in the plate mill - which his grandfather Reg ‘Cogger’ Gosling was working in when it first started rolling in 1927 - which is to be mothballed.

Making it even harder is the fact his wife - whose great-grandfathers were also steelworkers - deals with plate customers - and her job too is at risk. Between them they have notched up 56 years. He said: “When I first heard the rumours I felt sick. I was in the briefing with the management team and I felt this emptiness - and a little bit of anger too. My wife has been upset too - she has been very tearful.”

For Scunthorpe - which many locals say has been dying a long, slow death with successive rounds of redundancies dating back to the 1980s cuts under Margaret Thatcher - the impact will be immense.

The Romans mined ironstone locally, and it has been the major industry in the town since Rowland Winn - three streets are named after him - rediscovered iron ore in 1859.

It is said that for the 4,000 people who work for Tata Steel, another 25,000 are indirectly employed - from contracting engineering firms to the cafes which border the massive site and its still smoking towers.

Karen Hope-Dilley, whose Grange Lane cafe is a regular haunt of many steelworkers, said: “This will kill Scunthorpe - my personal opinion is this is the start of the steelworks going.”

Many share the fear Scunthorpe will follow Redcar, where 2,200 jobs have been lost. The feeling was summed up in one refrain: “It’s not the Northern Powerhouse any more - but the Northern Poorhouse. First fishing, then the mining, now steel. Whatever next?”

Mr Gosling. a councillor and rep for the Community union, whose bedroom window as a child was lit up at night by red, yellow and green flames when they were tipping slag at Normanby Park, said: “If the Government don’t start listening there won’t be a future for the steel industry or my sons in this town.”

In June he put up a motion at North Lincolnshire Council calling for business rate relief - Tata pays £15m - but it was voted down by Conservative councillors. Now he and others can only hope that those who want to retire will take voluntary redundancy - allowing others to redeploy. He added: “My hope now is that we can save the rest of the jobs at the plant, the 3,000 that will be here in the future.”