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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Steel plant's final hours
steelmaking
Ebbw Vale's links to steel stretch back two centuries
Corus workers in south Wales have witnessed the end of an era, with production ceasing at the Ebbw Vale plant.

Workers gathered on Friday to see the last coil come off the line at 1030 BST - the end of more than two centuries of iron and steelmaking in the town.

Steelmaking
Steel was at the heart of the Welsh economy

The 500 remaining workers at the Corus tin plate plant completed their final shifts at 1400BST, though some will stay on to clear the site over the next few weeks.

Living in an economic blackspot, many of the employees face spending the rest of their lives unemployed.

The area's unemployment rate is twice the national average, and earnings are the lowest in Britain.

A total of 850 have lost their jobs, though 300 have accepted transfers to other Corus plants elsewhere in the UK and in the Netherlands.

Others, however, have opted for early retirement, or begun retraining for other types of work.

Ebbw Vale is one of half a dozen steel towns due to benefit from a share of a 66m Welsh Assembly aid package.

Re-training

A Welsh Development Agency and Cardiff University study last autumn revealed that a special taskforce set up to overcome 3,000 steel job losses in Wales should run for five years.

As production finishes, Euro MP Glenys Kinnock will meet workers who have begun re-training in a bid to find new work.

The announcement of the plant's closure 18 months ago by Corus was a heavy blow to the workers and their families.

Hundreds of employees have begun a range of training courses, preparing them for careers in fields as diverse as information technology and fork lift truck-driving.

Challenge

Prospects for the town have also been lifted by plans for an 15m passenger rail link to Newport, due to open in 2004.

Mrs Kinnock said: "The end of steelmaking in Ebbw Vale poses a tremendous challenge to this community and the individuals losing their jobs."

Michael Leahy, General Secretary of the ISTC steel union, added: "This weekend sees the end of a proud tradition of steelmaking in Ebbw Vale.

"However, as a union rooted in a steel communities like Ebbw Vale, the ISTC has not accepted that the end of the works must mark the death knell of this community."

The operation to demolish and clear the site is likely to take more than two years, after which the land will be redeveloped.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Ebbw Vale steel worker
"I came here a good few years ago thinking I had a job for life, and I haven't."
BBC Wales' Melanie Doel
"The journey into work was difficult for all the men"
Steel industry regeneration

Cash pledged

Corus bombshell

BACKGROUND

LINKS
See also:

04 Jul 02 | Business
27 Sep 01 | Wales
10 Sep 01 | Business
02 Aug 01 | Business
19 Apr 01 | Wales
29 Mar 01 | Wales
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