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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 14:44 GMT
Mixed feelings over steel exhibition
Corus plant explosion
Steel production continues despite last year's blast
The steel-making company Corus has opened an exhibition to mark 100 years of the industry in a south Wales town where three of its workers were killed in a blast furnace explosion last year.

The Century of Steel exhibition has been put together with the help of employees and local schools.

Aerial shot of blast furnace fire
Port Talbot has produced steel for 100 years

But it has opened just a day after the multi-national announced annual losses of nearly half a billion pounds.

And people in nearby communities which have been hit by the firm's decision to axe 6,000 jobs in the UK, almost half in south Wales, have criticised the event while many of the job cuts announced last February have yet take effect.

One of the communities affected by Corus's closures is Gorseinon, near Swansea.

Corus closed its small Bryngwyn plant in the village making 126 redundancies, even though the site was profitable.

Workers marked the closing by marching out last year headed by a flag waver and a lone drummer.

Despite making an overall contribution to the coffers of the company which on Monday announced losses of 462m, it was shut because it did not fit in with the firm's strategy for the future.

Dr Mark Carr, Corus Strip UK managing director
Steel director Mark Carr said staff supported the event

A regeneration forum has been established in the village with around 4m to help boost the commercial centre of the area.

News that Corus is marking its 100-year presence in south Wales has been greeted with only lukewarm enthusiasm by Councillor Gethin Evans, who used to work at the plant.

"I'm glad that steel-making is continuing in Port Talbot," he said.

"It's very nice to hear that someone from Corus is opening something because our experience of the last 12 months has been that all Corus has done is close various plants.

"We have had to have a regeneration forum set up with the aid of the Welsh Assembly and the local authority."

Bryngwyn workers marching out of the plant on their last day
Last day: Bryngwyn workers marched out of the plant

Steve Canon, Chairman of the Bryngwyn branch of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: "How can you celebrate the loss of 6,000 jobs?

"The community of Gorseinon is devastated as far as Bryngwyn is concerned."

But one of those who has seen the exhibition, Port Talbot Councillor John Rogers, defended Corus's decision to go ahead with the event which traces steel production in the town from 1902.

"Don't forget, Port Talbot has lost jobs over the years as well," he said.

"The centenary theme is to bring the communities together along with local schools and to raise money for charity."

"Right and proper"

He believes Corus staged the exhibition in a sensitive manner given that feelings in the town were still raw following the explosion last year which claimed three lives.

Added to that, he said the workforce and unions at Port Talbot had been consulted about the exhibition.

"It was felt right and proper to celebrate the 100 years of steel making at Port Talbot."

Dr Mark Carr, Corus Strip UK Managing Director, said 2001 had been a difficult year for the company.

"Nevertheless, our employees and the community wanted this event to go ahead and I think it's right that we do so."

BBC Wales's Rebecca John
"Corus knows this couldn't be a straightforward centenary celebration."
See also:

16 Jan 02 | Wales
Explosion furnace to be rebuilt
15 Dec 01 | Wales
Corus furnace probe 'progress'
12 Nov 01 | Wales
Third Corus blast worker dies
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