Fears for thousands of jobs at Port Talbot steelworks
Trade unions fear thousands of job losses are to be announced on Friday at Port Talbot steelworks, under plans to produce “greener” steel.
Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns the steelworks, the largest plant in the UK, has been in talks with the UK Government for months over state aid worth hundreds of millions of pounds to help switch the plant’s two coal-fired blast furnaces to electric arc versions that can run on zero-carbon electricity.
The move could lead to around 3,000 job losses, mainly at Port Talbot, unions fear.
Ministers are expected to say the deal is intended to secure the survival of the plant which employs half of Tata Steel’s 8,000-strong workforce.
Tata warned last year that its UK operations were under threat unless it secured government funding to help it move to less carbon-intensive electric arc furnaces.
Unions complained they had been shut out of negotiations over the deal.
Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, GMB national officer, said: “Government intervention in the steel industry is long overdue, but imposing a program without proper worker consultation is unacceptable.
“GMB has urged ministers and Tata Steel to have a longer-term view on the decarbonisation of steel.
“It is not a just transition if thousands of jobs are sacrificed in the name of short-term environmental gains.
“We wholeheartedly support the move to modernise and decarbonise the industry, in fact we have sought this type of investment for years.
“But ignoring technologies outside of electric arc furnaces will mean tens of thousands of people will lose their livelihoods.”
Alun Davies, national officer for the Community union, said: “There must be a full and meaningful consultation on all the options to decarbonise steelmaking and secure the future of every UK plant.
“Community will do everything within its powers to support our members and protect their jobs.”
Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “The Government may be trying to do the right thing here, but if this deal leads to 3,000 job loses it can’t be right.
“Having a long-term vision that leads to hydrogen-based steel manufacture at Port Talbot, as well as the arc furnaces that recycle used steel, could protect many more jobs.”
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