TATA steel at Port Talbot in Wales is being allowed to ‘wither on the vine’ while the specialised side of the business in the north of England is being flogged off in a ‘fire sale’, trade union Unite warned yesterday.
Tata Steel announced that it is ‘pausing’ its sale of Port Talbot while pressing ahead with a separate sale of its speciality steel business and tubes operation.
The speciality steel making business is centred in Hartlepool, Rotherham and Stocksbridge and employs 2,000 workers.
While the sale goes ahead, the future of the 9,000 steel workers in the rest of the business including Port Talbot hangs by a thread.
Compounding this crisis are the 130,000 members of the old British Steel pension fund which has a black hole of £700m.
Unite national officer Harish Patel said: ‘The cloud of uncertainty over steelworkers’ heads needs to be lifted by Tata giving binding commitments about its long-term intentions regarding Port Talbot and its UK strips business.
‘We cannot be in a situation in three to four years’ time where Tata walks away from Port Talbot after leaving it to wither on the vine following a tie-up with ThyssenKrupp in Europe. The Tata board needs to be aware that such a scenario would leave Tata’s reputation as a responsible employer in tatters.
‘If Tata is to retain the goodwill of the workforce then its board needs to give guarantees over Port Talbot and assurances that it won’t conduct a fire sale of its speciality and tubes business.
‘Port Talbot and the UK strips business can have a viable and profitable long-term future with the right investment. They have a world class workforce making world beating products.
‘Unite will be pressing Tata for clarity over its intentions and ensuring it sticks to its promise to be a responsible seller and act ethically.
‘We would urge Sajid Javid to do the same when he meets with the Tata board in Mumbai.’
The government has offered hundreds of millions of pounds worth of loans to shore up any commercial buyer’s proposed bid and the taking of a potential 25% stake in the business.
Tory Business Secretary Sajid Javid meets Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry in Mumbai today ahead of a Tata board meeting.