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Tata set to cease operations at Port Talbot earlier than planned due to strike

27 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Picture by Matt Jones (CC BY 2.0)

Tata is to take steps to cease operations at its steel plant in Port Talbot earlier than planned because of a strike by Unite, workers have been told.

The company had been planning to shut down one of the blast furnaces by the end of June and the second one by September.

But workers at the South Wales site have been told that because of the strike by members of Unite, from July 8 Tata can no longer be assured of sufficient resources being available to ensure safe and stable operations.

A message to employees said: “Therefore, we are left with no alternative but to take preparatory steps to cease operations on both blast furnaces and safely isolate them no later than July 7.”

Unite

Unite called the strike in protest at plans to switch to a more environmentally friendly way to produce steel, with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Tata has also launched legal action against Unite’s ballot.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “Following the announcement by Unite Union to unilaterally call strike action from 8 July, Tata Steel is unfortunately forced to commence legal action to challenge the validity of Unite’s ballot.

“In the coming days, if we cannot be certain that we are able to continue to safely operate our assets in a stable fashion through the period of strike action, we will not have any choice but to pause or stop heavy end operations (including both blast furnaces) on the Port Talbot site.

“That is not a decision we would take lightly, and we recognise that it would prove extremely costly and disruptive throughout the supply chain, but the safety of people on or around our sites will always take priority over everything else.

“The company again calls for Unite to withdraw its industrial action and join Community and GMB unions in giving consideration to the company’s proposed Memorandum of Understanding, which puts forward a wide-ranging proposal including generous employee support packages, training and skills development.”

The Tata spokesperson added: “We understand the impact of our restructuring will have on many employees and contractors, but we remain committed to a just transition and — pending a Government-backed grant funding agreement — to the £1.25 billion investment in low-CO2 steelmaking, which will ensure Tata Steel has a long and sustainable future in the UK.”

Responding to Tata’s announcement, First Minister Vaughan Gething and Economy Secretary Jeremy issued a joint statement. They said: “The news that Tata could switch off Blast Furnaces 4 and 5 at Port Talbot next week is extraordinary and will cause huge anxiety for the workforce, their families and the community.

“The Welsh Government cannot and will not support the closure of both blast furnaces. As we have said many times, the company should wait for the outcome of next week’s General Election before taking irreversible decisions.

“Acting whilst the nation goes to the polls does not help to deescalate matters.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language held talks with the company earlier today.

“Urgent and good faith negotiations are now required to ensure safety at the site and avoid an outcome that would have such a severe and lasting impact on Port Talbot, Wales and the UK.”

Plaid Cymru economy spokesperson, Luke Fletcher said:  “News that workers at Port Talbot have been told that Tata could cease operations at the plant by 7 July is terrible for Wales, our economy and our communities.

“The time has come now for an incoming Labour government to put words into action on Steel. ‘Save our steel’ is no good as just a slogan. If we are going to save our steel, nationalisation needs to happen on day one.

“Enough is enough – it’s time to be bold and ambitious because if we aren’t, future generations will not thank us for letting our steel industry wither on the vine.”


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Nia James
Nia James
16 days ago

So the scene is set for an incoming Labour Government to engage in emergency talks with Tata over the weekend of 6th and 7th July. If they pull off a recovery deal that suits all parties, and particularly the employees at Port Talbot, they will be seen in a glowing light that will provide them with kudos galore. Sadly, the reality is that it is hard to find anyone who thinks that Starmer’s cautious, placid administration will have the ingenuity or gumption to do this.

Welshman28
Welshman28
16 days ago
Reply to  Nia James

Labour have completely b ignored the meetings with Tata , they have lead the workers up a garden path just making sure they get their votes

Welshman28
Welshman28
16 days ago

Can you believe Jo Steven’s labours shadow Welsh secretary has just told channel 4 news that Tata must come to the table and discuss this as grown ups . UNBELIEVABLE Welsh Labour have been misleading the people of Port Talbot from day one infact I will be clearer they have been completely twofaced wanting the steel workers votes before the election that’s the only reason they’ve been saying things they have said SHAME On them .

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
16 days ago
Reply to  Welshman28

**makes no sense…** ?!?!?!?!?

Adrian
Adrian
16 days ago

It’s OK everyone: Labour’s been telling us for years that Net Zero’s a great idea, and that there’ll be ‘green’ jobs coming to the rescue…anytime now!

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
16 days ago

I agree with Luke Fletcher’s comments about the (likely) incoming labour government. If they are to prove themselves as worthy of being in government than nationalisation of the steel industry should take place on 5 July without delay!

Adrian
Adrian
16 days ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

It used to be nationalised Richard: those of us around at the time remember that Labour didn’t handle it very well. It’s one of many reasons why the UK subsequently got three terms of Thatcher.

Beau Brummie
Beau Brummie
16 days ago

Speaking from ignorance …

Across the UK, there are many mountains of scrap steel, from cars, demolished buildings, domestic use, rails …

What’s the problem with having a furnace dedicated to regenerating new steel from these heaps of rust? It won’t run out of UK raw material – ever!

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
16 days ago

This is the Unions all over, when there is a risk of the plant closing, what do they do, strike and get it closed earlier.
Tata own and run the plant, if the Unions want to buy it out and run it themselves, there is nothing stopping them.

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