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Tata snubs Labour plea over closure of Port Talbot blast furnaces

11 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Vaughan Gething (left) speaks with parliamentary candidate for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock during a visit to Tata Steel, in Port Talbot. Photo Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Tata Steel has confirmed it will press on with shutting off blast furnaces at its Port Talbot steelworks in the coming months, in a move which will cost thousands of jobs in south Wales.

The company revealed the decision despite calls from the Labour Party to delay the decision until after the upcoming general election.

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.

Electric arc furnace

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.

Losses

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.”

Fresh talks

First Minister Vaughan Gething urged Tata to wait for a possible Labour government next month so fresh talks can take place.

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Labour leader, insisted the General Election in July had “changed the opportunity”.

He said the company believed there was going to be an autumn election, but there was now a “very real prospect” of a Labour government “with a different agenda”.

He said: “This is about the future of all of us in Wales and Britain and it’s right that we are here today.”

Mr Gething said he expected the company – which unions say has threatened to cut redundancy pay in response to proposed in industrial action – to negotiate “in good faith” with Labour and the trade unions.

He added: “Suggesting that there would be a reduction in the redundancy offer is not something that my government could support, I will be clear with the company when I meet them shortly.”

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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Adrian
Adrian
5 days ago

The mental gymnastics here really are astounding. Labour is constantly banging on about what a great idea Net Zero is – and in just six years’ time. They claim that it’ll all be fine because of those thousands of ‘green’ jobs waiting in the wings.

They are simultaneously saying that this move needs to be postponed because of the redundancies: sorry Mr Gething but where are all those green jobs again?

The double-think of these muppets is just breathtaking.

Lord Custard
Lord Custard
4 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Because you can’t make wind turbines out of vegan pasties. They need steel, and its less CO2 to make the steel here than import it.

hdavies15
hdavies15
4 days ago
Reply to  Lord Custard

In the meantime Indians in India will be churning out a hefty blend of pollutants as they hoard a bigger share of old fashioned steel production. TATA’s game plan is so transparent yet our dummies engage in an abstract debate about net zero. Indians are having a laff.

T3DSK1
T3DSK1
3 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

The die is cast excuse the pun this is a done deal

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