Monday, 17 August 2009

Anglesey in crisis

Taken from Proper Tidy ( - I hope to do a post about the trials and tribulations of Anglesey County Council at some point soon

You may recall that I have written previously about Anglesey Aluminium, here.

On Thursday of this week, it was inevitably confirmed that a further 250 jobs would go as of September 30th, leaving a workforce of just eighty at the plant. At the turn of the year, Anglesey Aluminium employed 540 workers.

I could, at this stage, point out that Anglesey Aluminium are owned by a hugely profitable parent company; that Anglesey will be left decimated by the closure of one of the largest employers in the region; that Rio Tinto declined a public money grant of nearly £50 million in compensation for the loss of cheap energy from Wylfa; that consent was granted for the new Wylfa B nuclear power plant on the basis that it would preserve jobs at Anglesey Aluminium; and that this is a clear strategy of Rio Tinto’s to use the cover of recession to switch production to low wage economies, irrespective of the vast profits their existing plant has created for them and the devastating effect the closure will have on the island. But I have already covered this, previously, and there seems little point in going over old ground.

I should, perhaps, point out that the closure of Anglesey Aluminium will also have a significant knock on effect for what little industry is left on Anglesey; that many more workers are indirectly reliant upon Anglesey Aluminium.

David Hughes, operations manager at hauliers LE Jones in Ruthin, told the Daily Post: “A loss of a major factory like this is a major blow for the haulage industry in North Wales and it will impact on our company.

“They were one of our biggest customers and this will affect us. We don’t know how badly yet but it will impact.”

Another firm affected by the impending closure is Grays Engineering, which carries out welding work for the company. They employ 17 people.

Spokeswoman Karen Lewis said: “Workers are already on short time and this will put jobs under threat. We are very low here today and very concerned.

“They are our biggest customer and we have worked for them for 20 years.”

Graham Rogers, North West Wales regional organiser for Unite, said there was great anger at the plant.

“There is dismay, disappointment and anger at the decision. There is a feeling from workers they have been strung along through this and then let down at the end.

“The impact on the community is massive. It will impact on all types of businesses from shops to garages. In the long term you could quadruple the jobs that will be lost.”

Former Anglesey Aluminium worker Jeff Evans, now manager at the JE O’Toole Centre for the unemployed in Holyhead, said: “The impact on the Holyhead and Anglesey is devastating, it is a huge blow. The workers and the whole community has been left in the mire by the company. They have made vast profits over 40 years from this loyal workforce, they could have accepted some temporary losses over this recession but have showed that profits come before people.”

I’ve not got much more to add to the above, other than to say that this is a clear example of the callousness and greed not only tolerated but encouraged by neo-liberal capitalism. The workers of Anglesey Aluminium and the people of Anglesey have been let down; by big business; by the Welsh Assembly Government; by local New Labour mouthpiece Albert Owen; by the system. This is an island with a highly skilled workforce but with one of the lowest average wages in the UK. Unemployment is well above the national average, and those lucky enough to be in work are often employed in seasonal trades, such as agriculture and tourism, or in unskilled and poorly paid sectors such as retail and low-end production. That the people of Anglesey will now have to cope with the loss of such a key employer is nothing short of a tragedy, and the self-serving greed of Rio Tinto and Kaiser Aluminium, combined with the ineptitude, incompetence, and indifference of the WAG and Albert Owen MP is an insult to the workers of West Wales and beyond.

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