Paul returned to work at SSI on Thursday 1st October as he had been advised by his bosses. After a few days at home watching the news he was ready to get back and see his mates on D-shift. The lads on D-shift are great. Three weeks ago we spent the day with them at Zach and Kirsty’s amazing wedding in Stokesley. What a day and what a wedding! With us living all the way up on Wearside we don’t often get to socialise with the lads and wives but when we do we have an awesome time. Zach, the youngest member on D-shift was kind enough (and brave enough – if you’ve ever met Benno you’ll know what I mean) to invite us along with 4 other couples and Benno. Little did Zach know that when he returned from his Las Vegas and Dubai honeymoon that he would be faced with losing his job. Great start to married life, right? I’m grateful that we didn’t know what was coming so that we could truly enjoy and celebrate such a special occasion without anything overshadowing it.

Paul couldn’t wait to see the lads on Thursday. They really do have a great bond and I’m not sure I can understand how close they are. Twelve hour shifts, I guess, do that to you. They’ve looked after Paul. He isn’t the most confident and outgoing person in the world and of course he’s a mackem (a Sunderland native) but despite all that they’ve taken him to their hearts and he loves them! It’s done wonders for Paul’s confidence been selected from thousands of applicants to work at SSI and he is proud. A proud steelworker. A hard worker. A committed worker. If he finds a job with men as half as good as the lads on D-shift he will be a lucky man.

As expected, his return was emotional. The lads are gutted. Gutted they are losing their jobs. Gutted they are losing their mates. Gutted Redcar is losing it’s soul. Steel making is a way of life for many men and their families on Teeside. The heart of their community has been ripped out. We know how it feels here in Sunderland having said goodbye to the heart of our industries over the years. Gone are the mines, gone are the shipyards and now gone is the steel. No amount of shiny, new call centres can ever replace this hardworking, salt of the earth industry. No wonder our towns and cities are dying and our young people have nothing to look up to and strive towards.

Paul and the D-shift lads will find work. They are skilled men – too good to be lining up in the Job Centre signing on week after week. The problem is 1,700 are now looking for work. Maybe Paul will be a lucky one and something up this way will crop up. He’d save around £300 a month in fuel costs alone if he could secure a job in Sunderland.

Paul returned home from work happier than I had seen him all week. Billy, John, Eddie and the rest of the lads had kept each other’s spirits up and made him feel there was still a fight to be fought and they would go down fighting. So for one night last week Paul seemed in good spirits. Unfortunately it wouldn’t last long.


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