SSI steelworker: 'All I want for Christmas is a job'

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SSI in RedcarImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
SSI closed on 12 October, ending 98 years of steel making in Redcar

It has been two months since Redcar's SSI site closed and the news crews pulled away, but what is life like for the industrial seaside town's former steelworkers with Christmas just around the corner?

"We haven't got time for Christmas, we need to find me a job or we'll lose this house," says David Connor.

"I'd like a job for Christmas, not a tree, not a present, not a meal, just a job so I can provide for my family."

He says he felt his "world was crumbling" when he was one of the thousands who lost their job as Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) went into liquidation and closed in October.

He had worked at the plant for 14 years, but more bad news was to follow. His long-term girlfriend, Suzanne McLean, worked at the Boulby Potash mine where hundreds of job losses were announced in November.

Image source, David Connor
Image caption,
David Connor was "heartbroken" when he could no longer financially support his stepdaughter Hannah at university

He said Christmas Day was usually "a scream" and the family "fall off the settee laughing" but it would not be the same this year.

The pair face the prospect of moving away from Teesside to find a job.

"At the end of the day it's only a financial situation - the family is healthy, no-one is seriously ill, no-one is dying," he said.

"You don't need money to have fun, you just need time."

Some of the ex-workers were lucky enough to find work before Christmas, while others have found the looming holiday is just a reminder of what they have not got.

Image caption,
Paul and Anna Maven have had to put their future plans on hold as Paul earns almost half of what he did at SSI

Anna Maven became known as the SSI Wife when she blogged about her experiences when her husband, Paul, lost his job.

Her blog received widespread attention and was praised by other steelworkers' wives who said they appreciated reading about someone who was going through a similar experience.

However, the lull following the media's departure has left the couple feeling "flat", she said.

Although Mr Maven found a new job at Johnson Controls last month, the couple say they are still in a tough financial situation.

They live with Mr Maven's parents in Sunderland with their young daughters, Honor and Monica, and will celebrate Christmas together.

"I do think you can get caught up in the pressures put on you at Christmas, it's just nice to be with each other - it does make you put things into perspective," Mrs Maven said.

Image source, Paul Maven
Image caption,
Paul Maven at work at the SSI site on 2 October, unaware it would be his last day

She says the family had hoped to be in their own house but are aiming to get on an "even keel" in the new year and make realistic decisions for their future.

Mr Maven said he lost his pride when the workers' "way of life" was taken away with a "click of a finger".

He said he was now looking forward to Christmas as he was earning money again.

"At least now we can have a few treats," he said.

Image caption,
Anna Maven said there is more to life than "material things" and is looking forward to Christmas with daughters Honor, four and Monica, two

Adam Levett said it did not feel like Christmas this year after losing his job, his home and his car in the space of a month.

He will take his twins, Matilda and James, to his dad's house for dinner this year, but he had looked forward to celebrating in his own home.

"I've asked them what they want for Christmas and James said he wants me to get a house," he said.

He does not see his children as much, as they live with his ex-partner and he no longer has a room for them to stay in while he lives with his friend in Redcar.

Image source, Adam Levett
Image caption,
Adam Levett says he is worried about the effect on his five-year-old twins James and Matilda

"I can cope with it better than them but it's them I'm worried about, and them not having a bedroom when they come visit me," he said.

Despite the upheaval he has faced, Mr Levett remains positive and said he was not one to "mope". He has a training course lined up for January.

Image source, Adam Levett
Image caption,
Adam Levett said "no good" came from the SSI closure as thousands of people, including his dad, cousins and friends, were left jobless
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Paul Maven feels like he should still be working at SSI, but said it will probably be "pulled down" by next year

Dave French has become a full-time carer for his disabled family and survives on benefits since losing his job at Southbank.

"The benefits we get now are used to pay for the basics, and additional things my wife and children need have to go by the wayside in order to keep a roof over our heads."

He will have a quiet Christmas Day with his family. However, he cannot shift the feeling that the presents he has got for his family have not come out of his own pocket.

"I could look at most stuff around my house and think 'that came out of that month's money'.

"Now I have got something nice for my boy and I know he'll love it but I think 'I didn't pay for that'," he said.

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