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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 17:52 GMT
'Betrayal' of a nation
Steel plant
Ebbw Vale is a town built on iron and steel
As the early morning shift workers drove into work at the steel plants of the south Wales Valleys, the pessimism hung as thick as the fog.

The spectre of mass redundancies had been hanging over the Welsh steel industry for months.

We are losing our money, our lives, our pride. We are losing everything

Steel worker Peter Lloyd

And the blow that will surely lead to the disintegration of age-old communities was only minutes away.

"We've been through it all before with the pits," said one worker. "And I can tell you it's not very nice."

At 0900 GMT on Thursday Corus announced losses at plants in north and south west Wales along with the closure its steel making operation at Llanwern, near Newport, with the loss of 1,340 jobs.

Paul Collier AEEU regional officer
AEEU regional officer Paul Collier met with Rhodri Morgan
But perhaps the most bitter blow was to Ebbw Vale. The site is to be completely shut down with the loss of 780 jobs.

The small Valleys town near Newport - already handicapped with the highest unemployment rate in Wales and where household incomes are 15% less than the rest of Britain - is staring economic disaster in the face.

Ebbw Vale is a town built on iron and steel. In the 1960s, the plant there employed 14,500 people.

Even though that has been whittled down to the 1,000 by 2001, the steel industry remained at the heart of the community.
2795 jobs cut in Wales
Llanwern - 1,340
Shotton, Deeside - 319
Ebbw Vale - 780
Bryngwyn - 127
Strip products - 200
Orb,Newport - 29

Many residents have said it is hard to imagine that Ebbw Vale will be forced to survive without that identity.

"There is a sense of anger here - a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness," said BBC Wales's Melanie Doel.

"People are angry because workers here put in a record-making performance. They claim they have the highest productivity record in Europe."

As the political fall-out of Corus's decision continues to mushroom, workers who face a future out of work, said the underlying feeling was one of bitter betrayal.

Peter Lloyd, who has worked at the Llanwern plant since it opened in 1962, said workers felt let down by Corus.

"The saddest day in the assembly's short history

First Minister Rhodri Morgan

"We feel betrayed by them.

"They trained us, but after all this hard work they are just saying 'thank you very much'. We are losing our money, our lives, our pride. We're losing everything."

The effect on the heartlands of industrial south Wales cannot be underestimated.

Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan spoke of a "complete mess" and told AMs that they were witnessing the "saddest day in the assembly's short history".

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | Business
Steel chiefs quit
06 Dec 00 | Wales
Steel industry job fears
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