Friday 19 February 2010

Sadly, Teeside steel workers cost themselves their own jobs

The unfortunate truth for the steelworkers -- which I would clarify for you I do have great sympathy for on a personal level by the way, in spite of appearances -- is that they were just paid too much. I don't mean they are paid too much compared to investment bankers, or doctors, or anyone else around them in the UK economy, but they are paid too much in global terms.

Steel products are bought and sold on global markets, like any other commodity. People elsewhere in the world make the same steel for less money, so they are able to compete on these globally-priced markets and survive. People buy steel from other countries, just because it is cheaper. UK steelworkers (not exclusively) are just paid too much, and it is uneconomical to employ them. That is the plain reality of global economic progress, unfortunately.

The government can talk all it wants to about how it wants to preserve these jobs, but it is just impossible to do so. It was never going to happen. It's not about the plant itself, product quality, a lack of sympathy for these people and their community that has bet the ranch on this one industry, or any other variable you might take into consideration. It just comes down to staff costs and a global economic system.

This was the same story for the coal workers, the shipyard workers, the textile mill workers, call centre workers, computer software developers, the list just goes on and gets longer with time as more things become possible from anywhere. If you're doing a commodity job, one that could just as easily be done elsewhere, then you are competing with workers elsewhere, and you will not win unless you are prepared to be paid what those workers elsewhere are being paid, or less. That's just the maths.

It's a big, bad world out there these days. You can no longer look at your own country's economy in isolation, at least not if you wish to survive in the long term. All those cheap TVs, clothes, furniture, etc in the shops at everyday low prices, they came at a price. Now it's time for us to pay the bills I'm afraid. :-(

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