Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tata Steel to press on with Port Talbot job cuts despite Labour calls for talks

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The steelmaking giant said it is “apprehensive” reading media reports that its restructuring plans “may be put in peril due to policy differences expressed by the Conservative and Labour Parties, during the ongoing election period”.

“We wish to inform that (Tata Steel) confirms that it will continue with the announced closure of the heavy end assets and restructuring programme at Port Talbot in the coming months,” it said in a statement.

Shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens urged Tata Steel to adopt a union plan for one furnace to be left on while a transition to green production takes place (Ben Birchall/PA)

Tata is moving to a greener form of production, using an electric arc furnace – which needs fewer workers, leaving jobs at risk. The plan involves investing £1.25 billion in greener technology.

“Over the last three years (Tata Steel has) worked hard to develop a sustainable future for Tata Steel UK and the Port Talbot Plant,” the statement said.

The company urged political parties “to adhere to and safeguard the agreed terms” of its plan to restructure its UK operations.

“This project has been developed to ensure production of low-emission high-quality steel in Port Talbot, preserving primary steelmaking in Britain and creating the potential for a future green manufacturing cluster in South Wales,” it said.

Tata has insisted the reduction in roles, which was first announced in January, is necessary to stop the company from making £1 million a day in losses.

The company also insisted it is not safe or financially practicable to build an electric arc furnace while old blast furnaces are still operational.

On Monday, senior Labour figures including shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens urged Tata to wait for a possible Labour government next month so fresh talks can take place.

On a visit to the Port Talbot plant, Ms Stevens called on the company to delay shutting off all the blast furnaces.

Instead, she urged Tata to adopt a union plan for one furnace to be left on while a transition to green steel production takes place.

The visit came after steelworkers said they would ban overtime as part of industrial action in protest at the job loses, starting on June 18.

Ms Stevens said she is “convinced” that progress can be made.

“What we have said to Tata all along is please don’t make any irreversible decisions before the General Election,” she said.

“And that means not switching off the blast furnace, which is due to happen at the end of this month.

“We want them to look at the union plan again, we want to talk to them. They know that we have our green steel fund ready to go. That will be there to support Welsh steel workers and steel workers across the United Kingdom to ensure a smooth transition to decarbonised steel.”

Alasdair McDiarmid, assistant general secretary at the Community union, said: “It would be wrong for Tata to make irreversible decisions before such a consequential election.

“Again, we urge the company to engage with Labour and the unions to consider alternatives to protect jobs.”

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