Loud and strong (6 October 2015)

The last steel mill in the UK – at Redcar, in the “Northern Powerhouse” of our heavy industry – is being “put in mothballs” by its Thai owners, with the probable loss of 1700 jobs in an area not noted for current vacancies.

Lots of questions arise from this event – mothballs? Thai owners? – but one thing is plain: it is all the fault of the Chinese. Phew! Our Chinese friends are apparently flooding the UK market with cheap steel, because domestic demand in China has slowed drastically and they can’t use all their own steel, so they are exporting it, and at a cheaper price than our steel. Of course, UK investors have grown rich on Chinese growth in the last few years, and feted the Chinese hugely; and this is how capitalism works, doesn’t it? But let’s (for now) gloss over that.

My own industrial heritage is weak; my grandfather was a coal miner, I was a student in Sheffield when the miner’s strike was in full flow and police were being bussed in from London; and I saw miners collecting money in the street in Cardiff when I started my first job, in the 1980s. I did work in a bread factory over one student vacation, which was eye-opening, but it was hardly “heavy industry”; and factory visits I have made in Cambodia and the Philippines fall into the same category of light industry, even if the jobs were hardly stimulating.

My first-hand experience of heavy industry, and those who work in the sector, is therefore minimal; I have no real idea what is involved. I imagine it is hard, desperate work, though workers speak of the camaraderie; and it is increasingly threatened in this 21st century.

What I did hear, however, on the radio, from one sacked Redcar worker, both moved and inspired me. It also reminded me of one important coaching lesson. What this man did was to say: yes, I have no job, and the job prospects here are poor; but I’m not going to despair, I will succeed, I will find something new, I will support myself and my family.

Positive speaking – aloud – is one way of dealing with adversity. It sounds unlikely, but try it; if you need to face up to something, to get it done, try saying it aloud – I can do it, I will do it, I will overcome!

Do it; and draw strength from it

All the best


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