Port Talbot steelworks – Unite to defend every job

Steel workers march to Parliament in defence of jobs in June

PORT Talbot’s steelworks will be given up to £500m by the UK government in a bid to keep the plant open and produce steel in a greener way.

Tata steel will add £700m of its own as it invests in cutting emissions. It has asked ministers to provide a bigger chunk of the cost.

But the package is likely to mean as many as 3,000 job losses across the UK.

The UK government has agreed to fund the installation of new electric arc furnaces for steelmaking.

The £1.25 billion furnaces are expected to be up and running within three years of getting regulatory and planning approvals, Tata Steel is expected to announce.

The company is expected to warn there will be a ‘transition period including potential deep restructuring’ at the plant.

Unions had previously said the move to the new less labour-intensive furnaces could lead to thousands of job losses.

Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes yesterday pledged: ‘Unite will fight to defend every job.’

The Community trade union responded to the announcement made by the government and Tata Steel UK yesterday on investment into the Port Talbot site for an electric arc furnace-only steel making model for the steelworks.

‘The Government and Tata’s approach has been narrow-minded and will be damaging for the economy and UK steelworkers.’

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said: ‘Following years of talking about decarbonising Port Talbot, we were given assurances by the leadership of Tata that discussions between them and our government would be restricted to their financial commitment and policy support, and that any decisions on the application of low-carbon steelmaking technology would be made in full partnership with us.

‘It now seems that Tata and the government are intent on building a future based on an Electric Arc Furnace-only steelmaking model.

‘The constant leaks around this deal have undermined industrial relations, and worst of all have left our members worrying about the future of their jobs on the basis of hearsay and rumours.

‘This is unacceptable, and should not be the way that companies or the government do their business.

‘Unions should have had a seat at the table throughout this process, as it is clear the interests of the workforce have not been considered in the rush to sign off a deal to do decarbonisation on the cheap.

‘An electric arc furnace-only approach is short sighted, undermines the integrity of our industry and comes at the expense of our steelworkers.

‘It would make us extremely exposed to the price and availability of steel scrap, and risks Britain’s economic security by making British steelmaking reliant on imports of virgin steel and steel in imported goods.

‘Tata and the government have gone for short-term savings over the long-term welfare of our members and the security of our economy. Community will do whatever it takes to protect the interests of our members.’

Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, said the investment to decarbonise was long overdue, but that he was concerned that ministers did not ‘adequately consult steel unions’.

‘At the heart of this failure is the narrow focus on electric arc furnace (EAF) technology, which will not only result in more job losses than necessary, but which simply cannot produce the qualities and grades of steel needed to meet the full spectrum of Tata’s customer base,’ he said.