So there I was in 1999, freshly rescued, if you want to call it that way, from the tyranny of an overbearing and unbearable boss in Tinplate R&D. So what could have happened if Chris Eliot hadn’t hatched the plan for my secondment to Ebbw Vale?
First of all, and something that happened within a few months of the merger with Hoogovens, Tinplate R&D became part of the new Corus-wide R&D division , with a re-organisation along lines that were inherited from Hoogoven’s R&D efforts. It’s hard to envisage where I would have fitted into the new structure, and whose decision it would have been who was posted where.
I think that for Corus Packaging Plus (the tinplate part of Corus) it became quite clear that since the head office was located in IJmuiden, that’s also where the PACS Centre was relocated. I know for sure that John Selwyn Williams and John Gamble both made that trip. Not sure whether the other positions were based there or had to do regular commutes.
Anyhow, all that became pretty immaterial once the decision was made that Welsh Labs was to close. Whatever physical presence there was across the bridge in Port Talbot, it became somewhat of a ghost town when the Welsh Development Agency bought up the site and rented some space back for some relic activities by Corus and subsequently Tata.
So either I would have moved to IJmuiden (a possibility, but far from certain), or I would have been on the lookout for a job elsewhere. Who knows whether I would have ended up in Ebbw Vale after all. Still, if the latter, it would have left me less time to try and find my feet and show that I was worth keeping for the last year when I really made my impact that secured my future in Corus / Tata Steel.
Whatever the case, the present situation where I made my move to Ebbw Vale in September 1999 was infinitely better. Not having to worry about all possible job permutations in the new R&D structure was a bonus, and by the time Ebbw Vale’s closure was announced I had at least built up some local goodwill that would stand me in good stead for the coming years.