Calls for ‘fair’ transition to green steelmaking at Port Talbot, amid fear of thousands of job losses
Local politicians have called for a fair and just transition to green technology at Port Talbot steelworks, whilst mitigating what are expected to be thousands of job losses.
The intervention from Aberavon MS David Rees and Stephen Kinnock MP comes after a warning from trade unions earlier this week that TATA Steel is set to imminently announce plans for its Port Talbot plant which will result in thousands of job losses .
On Wednesday (November 1), TATA was expected to reveal its plans for the future of steelmaking at the plant, but paused the announcement at the last minute following talks with trade unions.
But it has emerged that the plant’s owner was expected to confirm the winding-down of heavy-end steel production at the plant which may result in up to 3,000 job losses at Port Talbot and many more across the UK supply chain in the next year.
David Rees said: “Steelworkers and their families in and around Port Talbot once again will suffer huge anxiety as their futures and livelihoods are thrown into a black hole following the reported briefing given to the trade unions by TATA officials earlier this week.
“The proposal is expected to be the closing of both blast furnaces and the coking ovens, together with other elements of the ‘heavy end’ production of the steelmaking process.
“This, along with plans to mothball the Hot Mill and the Casting plant (BOS plant) on the site has left people wondering if the production of UK steel in Port Talbot and across the UK will soon end.
“Any plan to end these core functions of the Port Talbot plant would see thousands of jobs lost, with 3,000 jobs directly within TATA Steel but with many more amongst contractors at the plant and within the Wales and UK-wide supply chain, too.
“Whilst we aren’t fully clear yet what TATA intended to announce this week, as it was delayed at the last minute, one thing is absolutely clear: Port Talbot steelworkers will never accept any plan that’s based upon the closing down of our iron and steel making facilities and replacing the steel produced with supplies of steel coil made overseas, perhaps even as far off as India, for however many years it will take to build a new electric ARC furnace.
“Closing down our own industry to bring in steels from countries thousands of miles away where production processes are far less green than those already existing in Port Talbot is not a step towards creating a greener steel industry. Rather, it’s an approach that would be based on exporting jobs, importing carbon and using the mask of “green steel production” to hide the wanton destruction of Britain’s steel making capability.”
In October TATA Steel and the UK Government announced a joint agreement that would see an investment in a state-of-the-art electric ARC furnace in Port Talbot, with a £500 million grant from UK Government and a further £750 million investment from TATA Steel to cover the £1.25 billion cost.
It was expected that the transition to the electric arc furnace (EAF) would be phased, and the production of steel and iron at the plant with the current blast furnaces would continue during the transition and construction of the new EAF.
Stephen Kinnock, said: “This week’s uncertainty from TATA demonstrates that TATA must now engage with the trade unions and fundamentally re-think their proposals so that a new approach can be agreed – an approach which delivers a properly managed transition from the current steel making processes to one which will create a greener, viable and competitive future both for Port Talbot and Tata Steel UK.
“The steel trade unions have a plan that can decarbonise our steel making, that can protect the order books and client base of the works, and that will deliver a just transition for the workforce to a greener steel production site.
“Steelworkers are not hiding from change – they know the future of steel making will be transformed, and they want to embrace that change and use it to strengthen our place in a competitive global market.
“But they are simply not prepared to agree to a change plan that would destroy our steel-making, destroy thousands of jobs, and destroy the very fabric of our community.
We need a plan that is based on a well-built bridge, not a reckless and potentially lethal cliff edge.
The plan that TATA briefed trade unions on this week would quite frankly be an act of industrial vandalism, it would abruptly destroy our primary steelmaking capacity, with nothing in the near future to replace it.
“Our hope now is that the delay we all saw this week from the TATA board is a step in the right direction and allows for further talks and negotiations to take place, which will not see huge job losses and major economic impacts upon local communities and business in and around Port Talbot and south Wales, and we will work alongside all parties who seek the same goals”.
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