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Protest on the Rheinhausen Rhine bridge

Protest on the Rheinhausen Rhine bridge
Source: dpa

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"Der Pott" is boiling

In the "Pott", the Ruhr industrial area, the furnaces have gone cold, but the workforce is fired up. Krupp workers in bulletDuisburg-Rheinhausen occupy a bridge on 10 December 1987 to protest against the closure of their plant.

A total of 200,000 jobs are threatened in the bulletsteel industry. The situation in the bulletcoal industry is even worse - another 300,000 miners must go.

By the late 1980s, only some four per cent of employees in North Rhine-Westphalia still work in these sectors of heavy industry. The process of structural change has been completed! A success!

Hardly the right word: NRW has become a recipient state under Germany's scheme for financial adjustments, which obliges the stronger states (Länder) to help out the weaker ones. True, NRW now boasts a forward-looking economic structure, attracting new businesses like Oetker (food), bulletNixdorf (IT) and bulletBertelsmann (media) - even to rural regions such as eastern Westphalia.

Yet the sunrise industries can only absorb a part of the unemployment left by heavy industry, leaving many workers with little prospect of ever finding a new job. Nevertheless, there was no alternative to economic restructuring. It's a time of transition.

The Rheinhausen bulletKrupp works are not finally closed down until 1993. On 17 January, the "Night of a Thousand Fires", miners and steelworkers have to demonstrate again in support of their colleagues at Rheinhausen, this time to ensure they are not left on the scrap heap and forgotten. For it was once their hard work that sustained the economy of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Dirk Bitzer

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