New Dawn for British Steel, Scunthorpe

New Dawn for ScunthorpeThe hard work and sacrifices of Tata Steel’s long products workers were lauded (June 1 2016), during a handover ceremony in Scunthorpe to the devision’s new owners, Greybull Capital.

Greybull, who bought Tata long product sites in Teeside, Workington, York and Scunthorpe for £1 after employees agreed to a rescue package that saw a 3 percent pay cut, an end to bonuses and the closure of the pension scheme, have renamed the business British Steel.


Tata sells Scunthorpe site to British Steel
1st June 2016, Scunthorpe Steel works. Marc Meyohas from Greybull Capital at the announcement of the acquisition of the Scunthorpe Steel works from Tata Steel Europe

Greybull partner Marc Meyohas thanked the 4,800 steelworkers for their efforts in bringing the deal to completion and announced that the Scunthorpe plant is already turning a profit. Speaking at the ceremony, Meyohas said, “We have a very credible business plan in place and Scunthorpe has been in profit for the past couple of months and we expect it to trade profitably for the rest of the year.”

New Dawn for Scunthorpe

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey also attended the event, which saw British Steel flags raised above the site, and said the sale was a “confident” sign for the rest of Britain’s steel industry.

New Dawn for Scunthorpe
Chris Allison (Unite member) selected to raise the new flag

“The workforce are the most important people and they’re the ones who achieved this, they’re the ones who made sacrifices. Our shop stewards have done a wonderful job and given leadership, but it’s our members who have moved forward in a positive manner. It’s a new dawn for Scunthorpe and Teeside and the surrounding areas,” said McCluskey.

“It clearly sends out a message for the rest of the steel industry that there’s a element of confidence in the air. We’ll continue to press the government to make certain the rest of the steel industry is protected and that the warm words we’re hearing at the moment are turned into action.”

New Dawn for Scunthorpe

McCluskey also reminded Tata Steel of its responsibilities to around 10,000 other staff across the UK, who are still in the dark about their futures.

He said, “Tata Steel owes it to its workforce to continue to be a responsible seller by selling its remaining assets, as one entity, to a buyer which is committed to steelmaking in the long-term.”

Unite national officer for steel Harish Patel called the sale a ‘new chapter’ for Britain’s steel industry, but warned that the factors that caused Tata to pull out of its UK operations had still not been resolved.


New Dawn for Scunthorpe
Harish Patel, James Charters (SIMA Convenor) Len McCluskey, Martin Foster (Unite Convenor)

Patel said, “The pressure on the government needs to continue. We’re still going to get steel dumping in the UK and if they don’t do anything about the energy prices and business rates then the issue is going to come back to us in a couple of years time. Unite will continue to ensure the government delivers on the asks the industry needs and make sure we have a thriving steel industry.”

For the people of Scunthorpe, which was built around the production of steel, the sale means that the town’s economic lifeblood will continue to flow. The fact was highlighted during the ceremony, as the steel plant’s longest serving employee, Chris Allison – who has 45 years of service under his belt – raised the new British Steel flag, along with 16-year-old apprentice and third generation steelworker Ben Manoury.


New Dawn for Scunthorpe
L-R Chris Allison (Unite member) and Ben Manoury (Unite member and an Apprentice)

“It’s not like the chicken and the egg. It’s steel that came first and Scunthorpe that came after. So we’ve not only secured the jobs for the people that’s on this site, we also secured a future for the town. As trade union officials we can pat ourselves on the back, but the fact is that it’s the members who have done it,” said Unite’s Scunthorpe convenor Martin Foster, himself the son and grandson of steelworkers.


New Dawn for Scunthorpe
British Steel branding, Scunthorpe steel works

“It hasn’t been easy for them – they’ve taken a lot of cuts on the chin. It’s going to be a difficult 12 months for our members but they will be working hard to make sure British Steel has a bright future with the expectation that they will share in its future success.”

Text (c) Ryan Fletcher




Demand public inquiry now Unite members can help win justice for Ogreave miners

Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign
Jo Rollin outside South Yorkshire Police HQ

As one of the stalwarts of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), Joe Rollin, a Unite industrial organiser from Barnsley, wants Unite members who have been very supportive so far to  help provide the final push to persuade the home secretary Theresa May to order a public inquiry into the policing of events at the Orgreave Coking Plant on more than thirty years ago on June 18, 1984.


IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) Report relating
Joe Rollin, Unite the Union Industrial Organiser North East, Yorkshire and Humber, with the findings of the IPCC report in to Orgrave Coking Plant in 1984

May is expected to announce shortly the outcome of her examination of the OTJC’s legal case, which was submitted in support of an inquiry late last year. Since then, of course, an inquest jury has concluded that 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives after a crush at Hillsborough in 1989 were unlawfully killed. Both Orgreave and Hillsborough were overseen by South Yorkshire Police (SYP).

“Since we started out in November 2012, OTJC has enjoyed significant support from Unite members and from other trade unionists,” Rollin said.

Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign
Jo Rollin, Organising Department NEY&H Region, outside South Yorkshire Police HQ


“Now we really need everyone who can do so to attend this year’s rally on Saturday, June 18 at Orgreave. We also want as many letters as possible sent to Theresa May, who has informed us that the delay in responding is because she is considering carefully our detailed submission asking her to set up an independent public inquiry or panel.

Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC)

The legal submission, which was prepared voluntarily by four barristers, was submitted after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) took nearly three years to conduct an initial investigation that concluded it didn’t have the resources to undertake a full-scale investigation. The police watchdog also indicated it could not locate important documents such as the police operational orders that were drawn up in advance of June 18, 1984.

On that day, 95 miners were arrested when thousands of police officers from across the country brutally assaulted miners striking to defend jobs and mining communities. At subsequent court cases the evidence presented by SYP was heavily discredited and 39 miners were later awarded out of court settlements.

Yet no police officers, some of whom were told not to write anything in their note books on June 18 were ever charged of any offence despite conclusive evidence of assault, perjury, preventing the course of justice and misconduct in public office. Five years later at Hillsborough, history repeated itself when police officers were also instructed not to write anything in their note books. Some of the same senior officers were involved in the aftermath of both scandals.


Labour Party rally, Leeds Town Hall
Andy Burnham MP has been invited to speak.

Tell us the truth

This has led to the shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who is one of the invited speakers on at this year’s rally, to state “underhand tactics were first used against South Yorkshire miners before being deployed to much more deadly effect against Liverpool supporters.”

“Like the people of Liverpool, the South Yorkshire mining communities now need to be told the truth about their police force and the policing of the miners’ strike,” he said.

Burnham is one of dozens of Labour MPs who are backing calls for a public inquiry and they have been joined by Nick Timothy, who was the home secretary’s most senior advisor until last year, and David Jones, the interim chief constable at SYP, who has said he would welcome “an appropriate independent assessment” of events in 1984.

Joe Rollin, who has chaired the OTJC throughout its existence, thinks this makes it likely that Theresa May, who when the campaign met with her in July last year listened intently and indicated she was concerned about the legacy of mistrust within mining communities towards the police, will order an inquiry.

“What we want is one that has the power to get to the truth,” Rollin said. “Support from Unite members at our rally and in submitting letters can help make this possible.”

The Orgreave Anniversary Rally on Saturday June 18 starts at 5pm at The Old Bridge, Orgreave Lane, Sheffield S13 9NE.


Orgreave 30 Year Anniversary Picnic
Michael Mansfield QC, speaking at the Mass Picnic organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign in 2014

Among the speakers are Tosh McDonald, ASLEF President, barrister Michael Mansfield, ex-miner Kevin Horne and Barbara Jackson of OTJC. Find out more here.

You can write to or email Theresa May to support OTJC’s campaign using a template letter here. You can also tweet the Home Office demanding a public inquiry: @homeofficeuk.

Text by Mark Metcalf

Leeds bus workers demand fair share of profits amid strike

First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds

One thousand bus workers at First Bus in Leeds took strike action on Monday June 13 2016 in support of a pay claim that would properly reward them for their efforts in making the company a profitable one.The action started at 2.01am and by sunrise there were lively picket lines at the Bramley and Hunslet Park depots where the workers, members of the Unite NE302/36 branch, are based.

First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds

“We hope to persuade anyone considering going to work to stay at home,” explained Unite branch secretary Andy Dyer. “And we want to demonstrate to management that their measly offer of an extra 16 pence an hour from June 5 and a further 20 pence in January next year remains unacceptable.”

The bus workers argue that the pay deal is especially unacceptable given that First Bus Leeds has posted an £11m profit in 2015/16.

This equates to over £10,000 profit annually from each employee, who are therefore understandably angry at being paid around £2 an hour less than their colleagues at other nearby West Yorkshire First Bus operations.

First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds

To add to the frustration, First Bus Leeds, which operates 65 bus routes, or around 90 per cent of bus services in Leeds, is also cutting 45 conductors jobs by scrapping ‘bendy’ buses and replacing them with double decker driver-only buses.

This will save First Bus around £1m, some of which has already been re-allocated to senior managers in the form of a 5 per cent leap in pay and bonuses. In comparison, Unite has so far been unable to get First Bus to commit to an enhanced redundancy package for those conductors who cannot be found other jobs within the company.


“I first asked last year about negotiating a pay deal that should start on May 1 and had to remind the company by email in February,” Dyer explained. “There was then long gaps between meetings. We want 36 pence an hour extra but the company offer equates to just 22 pence an hour over the whole year.”

When 75 per cent of Unite members participated in a ballot for action, including a strike, over 93 per cent were in favour.

On Wednesday last week, Unite attempted to resolve the dispute when they attended the conciliatory service ACAS only to be left disappointed.

First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds
Phil Bown, Regional Officer

“First Bus did not really want to negotiate with us,” said Unite regional officer for passenger transport Phil Bown.

A quickly organised and very well-attended branch meeting confirmed that Unite members were willing to go on strike.

“Only one person was happy to accept the deal and members reluctantly agreed to take action unless management came back to us before today. I was available all weekend but heard nothing,” said Bown.

First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds
Staff from other areas and managers from the depot were brought in to run a minimal service.

The result was that in Leeds today, First Bus was only able to run a handful of buses at some considerable cost to the company after they bused in managers and supervisors from their other operating companies across the UK and housed them in hotels overnight.


First Bus Drivers' Strike, Hunslet Depot, Leeds
L-R Chris Linsell (Branch Chair), Tim Thorton (Vice Chair), Phil Bown (Reginal Office) and Andy Dyer (Branch Secretary)

“I am very disappointed at having to be on strike,” said Unite NE/302/36 branch chair Chris Linsell. “But we work hard and deserve a share of the profits. Yet the company is intent on ignoring us. I hope they see sense and properly negotiate with us as I don’t want this dispute to drag on.”

Mark Metcalf ©


charity, construction, building, prisoner

Former prisoners rebuilding their lives with housing charity

This is an article written by Mark Metcalf for the Big Issue magazine-
Former prisoners who are rebuilding their lives by working at a Hull housing project are restoring rundown properties for those in housing need.
Now a charity, Giroscope began as a worker’s co-operative in 1985 with one of its founders, Martin Newman, still in charge. The ethos of buying up dilapidated properties, renovating them and renting them out remains the same.
There are nine paid members of staff and two apprentices working alongside volunteers, who get on the job training. Their efforts in improving Hull’s housing have recently been recognised with a Queen’s Voluntary Service Award.
Many volunteers are former prisoners. Nick Brackstone, aged 29, served six years before being released in 2013. He had previously worked as a labourer but found paid employment difficult to obtain. Keen to stay out of trouble, earlier this year he took up his probation officer’s proposal and volunteered to work three days a week at Giroscope.
“I needed to stop sitting at home, demonstrate my timekeeping is good and also learn things like painting, taking down walls and plasterboarding that will help me find paid work,” he said. “I am aiming to apply for my Construction Skills Certificate Scheme card to prove I have the training and qualifications required to carry out a certain job.”
After initially volunteering, former long-term prisoner Les Stratford has found paid work
with Giroscope as a site support worker. His recovery from drug and alcohol abuse means he can empathise with many of Giroscope’s volunteers. As a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer with plumbing qualifications he is able to pass on essential building skills.
“I am thankful of being given an opportunity to rebuild my life by working with and helping former prisoners like myself rebuild rundown properties that are rented out to those in need,” he said.
“I am now revisiting prison to speak to inmates and pass on the message that you can move on and have a good life when you are released.”
Giroscope has 80 properties on its books. It borrows money against its existing housing stock to buy new properties.
Giroscope rents are similar to those charged by the local authority. The organisation is keen to ensure no tenant has to supplement their rent from benefits.
Some have held tenancies for 20 years. On only one occasion has someone been compulsorily evicted.
Giroscope architect Caroline Gore-Booth said; “We have young families in properties, a couple from a hostel has just moved into one, migrant workers and volunteers. The main reason people apply is because their landlord refuses to undertake repairs.”
A tour of Giroscope homes in a city that has more 6,000 empty properties was enlivened by Newman’s enthusiasm. “Organisations that begin with a small group of radical people usually fall out or become part of a larger housing organisation,” he said. “Not so Giroscope.
“We are much more professional. We don’t call ourselves anarchists or organise demonstrations but I think we still have the same attitude of mutual support.”

Is your photography labelling people?

camera taking self
How would you like to be pictured?

In the social and caring professions we have got used to the idea of not labelling people through the words that we use. Words like ‘blind’, ‘mental patient’ or ‘offender’ can seem inoffensive and yet they convey a sense of permanence to conditions. They can be limiting and patronising. They do not give enough attention to people’s humanity or potential for change and positive living.

Although people can make fun of political correctness, the reason it is important to be a stickler over language, is that seemingly simple words carry with them a load of assumptions and fixed ways of thinking.  Using words instead like ‘people with visual impairment’  or ‘people with convictions’ enables you to focus on people’s human qualities first and their capacity to change and have some self-determination in their lives.

But should we stop at language?

The way in which we take photographs and the pictures we choose to use, can also feed our stereotypes and limit the possibilities for change.

As a photographer sensitive to social issues and the challenges people face in their lives, I have realised that the dangers of labelling people are just as present when it comes to portraying people through photography. If anything, visual labelling is more subtle and sub-conscious and therefore can be even more damaging and imprisoning.

Look through many newspapers, magazines and websites and you will see loads of stereotypical images of people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are lacking money, employment, education or housing.   These photographic cliches can label and patronise just as much as any set of words. With the right lighting, angle and expression you can make your picture shout out the verbal equivalent of drop-out, benefit cheat, down-and-out, immigrant, outsider.

For me, photography is about connecting with individuals and their humanity.  I have a choice in what I capture for my photo library. Through the way I take pictures, and especially through being selective over the ones I choose to publish, I can show people’s courage, humour and strength of character in spite of their circumstances rather than show them constantly as victims.

As someone who earns their living from photography, you do have to follow the brief of your client and understand what message they want to convey.  Occasionally that does mean taking pictures that have a particular slant.  But, if as the photographer, I am treating the people I photograph with respect and I earn the trust of my client, then I can convey the message as well as do justice to the people and subject matter.

Ultimately everybody gains if we can reveal the humanity beneath the stereotypes.

Take a look at my portfolio at:

Waste Not Want Not

Waste Not Want Not

From waste lands to food growing wonderlands, Unite food expert Dr Charlie Clutterbuck says it can be done By Mark Metcalf published in Landworker February/March 2013


Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck is mapping the Ribble and

Calder Valleys in Lancashire and Yorkshire to highlight how the

land there could be used to grow more food by prioritising fruit

and vegetables.

Dr Charlie Clutterbuck aims to challenge government and

United Nations’ reports that claim there is little new land

worldwide for agriculture and so farmers must raise yields on

existing land without damaging the environment. The food and

agriculture organisation of the United Nations calls this process

“sustainable intensification” but critics say that is a contradiction

in terms that can’t be achieved.

Charlie (pictured left), a former adviser on securing food

supplies to the department for environment, food and rural

affairs select committee agreed there is no additional land for

wheat or rape production in the UK. But, he said, “There is land,

much of it uncultivated and classed as waste, that could be –

even helped by climate change – turned from grass to fruit and

vegetable production.

“Victorian gardeners once grew pineapples in Cheshire, so

change is possible. Scientific research should be directed

towards strategies that seek to improve access to locally

produced foods, which will also increase social cohesion

between urban and rural dwellers.”

He envisages grazing or pasture land for livestock and

brownfield sites would be turned over to fruit and vegetables.

The Ribble and Calder valleys are mainly used for grazing.

Upland moorland would become forests with clearings for

growing everything from herbs to strawberries.

Charlie has welcomed plans by the new owners of a 20-acre

Yorkshire farm near Todmorden.Monica Murtagh (pictured

centre) and David Templeman (pictured right) are planting

over 1,100 trees on sharply undulating land at Warland Farm.

The joint project with not-for-profit re-forestation group

Treesresponsibility could help combat the flash flooding that has

hit Calder valley Towns such as Todmorden and Hebden

Bridge. Trees soak up as much as 30 per cent of water and help

bind together the soil to help prevent erosion and landslips.

Coppice woodlands were once common in the UK, but today

there is just 21,583 hectares of actively managed coppice. The

UK, with just 12 per cent of land under woodland cover

currently lags well behind the rest of Europe, where the average

is 36 per cent.

The wood at Warland Farm will belong to the landowners. They

intend using some for fuel and selling some of the rest.

Wood will also be used in the woodwork shop currently under

construction in one of the large barns. “People with traditional

skills will be able to practice and pass on their skills, while also

manufacturing products for sale,” said Monica.

David added, “Alongside tall apple, cherry, pear and hazelnut

fruit trees that are nitrogen fixers, forest clearings will be used

to grow gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, herbs like

thyme and sage, quince currants and common vegetables like

asparagus and rhubarb. The major benefit of a forest garden is

that it consists of perennial plants and once they are settled the

plants grow and bear more crops as the years pass. There’s less

work as there’s no replanting, little tilling of the soil and no

pulling out of dead plants.

“The biggest work of a forest garden lies in its design. If we get

that right then the harvesting of the food is the biggest job. We

think we can grow food for 20 local families, who in return will

contribute their time and labour.”

Now 30 people have attended a recent open day for those

who might want to get involved. Charlie said, “It would be

great to see people follow David and Monica’s example. The

land may be difficult to work but it is capable of producing

food and habitation. There is a broad range of biological

possibilities and that is the fun of gardening. Those farmers

who currently get EU agricultural payments for just having

land should be encouraged to grow fruit and vegetables,

whilst public land could be utilised in a similar fashion to the

Incredible Edible local food growing schemes on wasteland

at Todmorden.”

He has already mapped out 11 potentially useful local sites and

more will follow. At Chorley, he has discovered there used to

be 40 orchards; at Saltaire he has discovered allotments on

many former brownfield sites; near Burnley land used for

sheep is identified as once having grown oats or rye.

At Ilkley on Wheatley Lane he speculates whether part of the

recreation ground next to Tesco could be used to grow

vegetables for the store. “I’d hope to make the results widely

available and if people would like to help they should go to my

‘Look at the land’ website,” adds Charlie.

A report written for the UK government’s department for

business echoes the food and agriculture organisation of the

United Nations’ call for higher yields on existing land.

The UK currently imports 40 per cent of its food. Prices have

risen and some products are in short supply because of the

bad weather over the summer. Meanwhile, the emergence of

vast middle classes in China and India has increased

competition for food-producing land.

For more, see Charlie’s Look at the land site at

Final Meeting Of Third Sector Assembly Sheffield?

On Wednesday April 24th the Sheffield Third Sector Assembly (TSA) met for it’s last formal meeting at Voluntary Action Sheffield chaired by Ian Drayton (CEO SOAR)

The ‘TSA ‘ is nearing the end of its partnership with Sheffield City Council. It was initially set up to support representation of the voluntary and community sector across the City in various partnerships and to improve communications. Cutbacks in Council funding are ensuring that local organisations are having to review their role and purpose and funding for organising the sectors voice will end in June.

So what is next for the Third Sector Assembly in Sheffield?
Is there still a will in the city to share decision making on public services?
Should we change our game and campaign on poverty and challenge the austerity programme instead or as well?
Who can organise the voluntary and community voice if the TSA goes?
Where will we get funding from?

An example of how the TSA has had influence Food Poverty is now on the agenda of priorities for the city – organised by the TSA and it’s partners Fare Share Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Housing.

Food Poverty in 2013 is scandalous and this will increase as benefit cuts bite hard,  the churches are responding but the Local Authority is reluctant to create more food banks or release resources to help coordinate a strategic approach in our poorest communities. There is need everywhere and yet there is food surplus and waste. Will the City Executives take the lead or do we leave it to the Bishops to look after the poor?

It’s taken us nearly 30 years to get this far, with the voluntary and community sector embedded in all the funding and regeneration programmes that have benefited Sheffield, it’s citizens, it’s public realm. There are now some big questions to answer if we are still to make our presence felt and stand with our communities and service users.

Kate Housden
Kate is currently Vice Chair of the Third Sector Assembly and has led the work on Food poverty as Fairness Commissioner for Sheffield. Contact