Thousands of steelworkers and their families have marched through Redcar in a campaign to save the Corus steel plant.
Over 5,000 workers and their families sent a powerful message to the government with the Save Our Steel march as they demanded help for the struggling plant which is the major employer in Redcar and a key industry for Teesside.
Two thousand jobs could go at the 150-year-old plant after a consortium pulled out of a 10-year contract to buy its product.
Electrician Bob Stainthorpe spoke at the rally, saying that the public response had moved him.
The deputy chairman of the multi-union committee at the plant estimated that up to 5,000 people had crammed the length of Redcar High Street.
‘It just shows the public support we have,’ he said.
‘People came from all over the country to be here and it tells us that we are not alone.’
Marchers included workers from the local port and Teesside’s chemical industry, as well as steelworkers and their families.
Some banners took issue with the government for bailing out the banks.
One read: ‘Mr Brown you have helped the banks, your MPs helped themselves to public money, now help us to Save Our Steel.’
Mr Stainthorpe added: ‘We have sent out a powerful message today. It would be an absolute tragedy if nothing was done to save us.
‘It would tear the heart out of the community.’
Steel union Community warned that British manufacturing as a whole would not survive if the government failed to act on the Corus closure.
Community official Roy Rickhuss said: ‘We need help, we need support from the government if the manufacturing base in this country is going to survive.
‘And steel is key to that. Without steel, there is no manufacturing base in this country.’
Unite union regional officer Bob Bolam added: ‘This is not a protest. What we want is the government to get involved to ensure that steel production on Teesside is maintained.’
Local Labour MP Vera Baird also urged the government to bring forward major projects which need steel, to boost Corus’s order book while negotiations to find a buyer continued.
‘There are other people who are interested in buying our steel now,’ she said.
‘So I feel that, although we are still in real peril, we do have a real prospect.’
A Department for Business spokesman said: ‘We are fully engaged with Corus to try to secure the future for as many workers as possible.
‘We have offered £5 million training support to help the workforce up-skill for the upturn, signalling a real commitment from the government to Corus and its workforce.
‘The difficulties that the company is facing are caused by an extreme downturn in demand for steel around the world. It is restructuring as it seeks to match production to lower demand and to position itself for the future.’