Posted: Fri 19th Jan 2024

“The future of British steelmaking is at stake” say unions

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jan 19th, 2024

Further reaction is emerging after Tata Steel announced the closure of both of its blast furnaces at the Port Talbot steelworks, a move that could lead to the loss of around 3,000 jobs. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

The steel unions – Community, Unite and GMB – met yesterday with senior representatives of Tata Steel

A joint statement from unions said, “This is of course extremely disappointing. In one area the company did accept the Multi-Union recommendation, which is to keep the Hot Strip Mill open to roll slab over a transition period, supporting hundreds of jobs there, but Tata have rejected our broader proposals to safeguard production capacity and protect jobs”

“Since Tata Steel and the UK Government announced their bad deal for steel on the 15th of September, the unions have been clear that proposals to install a 3mt Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) are completely unacceptable. As Community and the GMB, our experts and Tata Steel all understand, the installation of a 3mt EAF Port Talbot inevitably means the end of the blast furnaces, major production cuts and thousands of job losses before 2027.

“It is extremely regretful that despite the incontrovertible evidence one union has refused to accept the facts, and continues to undermine the Multi-Union through their support for a 3mt EAF and unilaterally campaigning for discredited fantasy solutions. We urge them, once again, to get back on board and work with us to deliver the best possible outcomes for all of our members.”

They added, “More than 3,000 jobs and the future of British steelmaking is at stake. It is an absolute disgrace that Tata Steel, and the UK Government, appear intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country. It’s unbelievable any Government would give a company £500m to throw 3,000 workers on the scrapheap, and our Government must reevaluate its miserly offer to support investment at Tata Steel.”

The job losses will significantly impact South Wales’s economy, where Tata is the largest private employer in Port Talbot. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

Tata Steel is investing £750 million, supported by a £500 million grant from the British government, to finance this restructuring. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

The company aims to replace the primary steelmaking blast furnaces at Port Talbot, which convert iron ore to molten iron and then steel, with an electric arc furnace. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

This method, less labour-intensive, uses scrap steel. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

Management at Tata rejected a union alternative to keep one blast furnace operational until 2032 to lessen the layoffs, citing daily losses of about £1 million. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌​‌‌‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌​​‌​‌​​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​‌‌‌​​‍‌‌​​‌‌​‌‍‌‌​​‌‌​​

The alternative would have incurred an additional £650 million cost.

Responding to the news that TATA plans to go ahead with potential 3,000 job losses in Wales, Plaid Cymru’s Economy Spokesperson, Luke Fletcher MS, who is also a Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, which covers Port Talbot, said:

“Tata’s decision to push ahead with job losses in south Wales is utterly catastrophic.

“This is going to have a devastating impact on not only the people of Port Talbot and its neighbouring communities but on the local and national economy of Wales.

“Plaid Cymru stands in absolute solidarity with the thousands of workers and their families impacted by today’s announcement.

“Wales is facing the absolute annihilation of the steel industry. The Westminster Government has allowed this key strategic industry to wither on the vine.

“The key question now is whether or not UK Government is happy to lose the ability to produce new steel and become the only country in the G20 unable to produce steel from scratch.

“To safeguard our ability to produce steel from scratch, to protect jobs, the UK Government must now nationalise the plant in Port Talbot.

“Decarbonisation and transitioning to a green economy should not and must not come at the expense of highly skilled, dedicated workers.

“Plaid Cymru believes that Wales’ most important asset is our people and our workforce.

“The Welsh Government’s focus must be on re-training and re-skilling to ensure workers keep their jobs and transition to carbon-neutral steelmaking.

“Welsh Government must also immediately undertake a national skills audit, to truly understand key sectors where reskilling and training is needed to maintain steel making capabilities, and allow a just green transition.”

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