Industry: water, steel & energy

Mate, Derek (6 of 9) National Life Story Collection: Lives in Steel

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  • Recording date

    1991-11-1; 1991-11-11

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Cleveland

  • Interviewees

    Mate, Derek, 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Dein, Alan (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Tinsley Park site closed. Steelmaking in Europe. Early 70's, BSC planned to make 34 million tons of steel by 1980's. Pressure to make a profit. Nationalisation didn't matter 'a damn'. Capacity in excess, couldn't nationalise industry under Labour Govt. Asked by Bob Scholey to go to Consett. Liked Stocksbridge, 'didn't ask questions'. April 1974, went to Consett, worked under Derek Saul - the bloke responsible for nationalisation in Teesside, knocked hell out of labour force. No preparation for Consett, half day's visit beforehand. Became General Manager, integrated plant with blasts, steelmaking, mills, foundry. Very big plant, one million tons a year capacity. N East plant with restrictive practices, wanted plant to be managed 'my way'. Plant operating quite well, 'founded on corporate cross'. Closed plate mill. Improved ironmaking and steelmaking. Spend about 10 million pounds on mill and finished end. Introduced unique system of charging hot metal in the BOS shop - used charge ladles from BOS vessel as hot metal ladles from blastfurnace. Put more scrap in BOS vessels than anyone else. Cheaper steel when scrap was cheap. Financial benefits of closing plant down. Morally difficult, workforce working well for you, but on the 'corporate cross', they die in a corporate business. Couldn't afford inefficiency, long term effort had to be right, but couldn't get understanding from people you were going to affect. Some Trade Unions understood. On leaving Consett in Dec. 1979, thought Consett was saved, but in one month the evidence became more and more severe that too much capacity in UK. Electricians went on strike in Consett. Very badly led - walk in. Staff were good enough to do the job - managed without them. Didn't let them dictate. Eventually came back to work, started to co-operate when it was too late. Relined blast furnace #3. Took three months longer than it should have done. Problems with Trade Unions on constructing the CEU. Hit out at them in front of press. Next reline on schedule. 'Manage from the top'. Enjoyed time at Consett, sorry about closure. Initially commuted to Consett. Stayed at Park Royal, company 'hostel'. Family moved some months later. 'Shock to the system' moving to North East. Took a lot of motivation to make them work. Badly managed. Demarcations, especially from the ship industry

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