Following a deal made between UK Government and TATA Steel in September 2023 of £500million investment for the installation of an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) at the Port Talbot steel plant, Tata Steel have announced today that they intend to shut down both of the current blast furnaces before the end of quarter 3 this year (September), ending the production of virgin steelmaking in Wales, with an expected loss of up to 2,800 jobs across the company with approximately 2,500 of those locally.
Welsh Government not ‘party to the discussions leading to the announcement’
Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy said in a statement:
“While today’s announcement contains significant investment for the longer term, it is inevitable that Tata employees, and their families, are rightly focused on the impact it will have on the thousands of jobs in Port Talbot and Tata’s downstream facilities in Wales.
“Today has been a difficult day for all those impacted by this announcement, and it comes with great uncertainty for the whole community.
“It has been particularly disappointing that neither the unions nor Welsh Government were party to the discussions that led to this announcement.
“It is essential Tata now conducts a meaningful consultation with its employees and the trade unions about these proposals. As Tata Steel has stated, the agreement is subject to relevant regulatory approvals, information and consultation processes, and the finalisation of detailed terms and conditions.
“There is much that needs to be worked through and all parties will now need to consider the announcement and proposed timeline in detail.
“The decision Tata Steel, in particular, takes about the nature and timeframe of its decarbonisation journey will have a profound impact on its full supply chain and wider region.
“For this reason, I have always seen the future of Tata not in isolation, but as sitting within a much broader effort to support industry and develop our manufacturing base across Wales in the vital transition to net zero.
“The Welsh Government places huge importance and emphasis on a just transition in our move to a net zero economy. The economy will change, but if this is planned well, we can take advantage of new opportunities and minimise compulsory job losses.
“I met representatives from Community, GMB and Unite unions today to discuss this announcement and I will meet Tata again next week. The Welsh Government will continue to work closely with the trade unions and the company to do everything we can to minimise job losses.
“I will make a further statement to Members in the Senedd next week.
Unite: “industrial vandalism on a grand scale”
Trade union Unite described the decision as ‘industrial vandalism on a grand scale’.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said in a statement:
“Unite is ready to use everything in its armoury to defend steel workers and our steel industry. We have detailed research demonstrating how and why Tata should be expanding UK steel production in line with growing demand, not slashing its workforce. We have secured funding from a future Labour government that could do this. Tata’s plan to close the blast furnaces is simply industrial vandalism on a grand scale.”
“The government needs to invest in British industry in order to defend workers and communities as well as our industrial base and our national security. Instead, they are giving Tata hundreds of millions of pounds to fund their plan to cut jobs, cut capacity and give more business to their plants in other countries, like India and the Netherlands. How is that acceptable?”
GMB: “The cost to local people and the wider Port Talbot community will be immense”
Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said in a statement: “The jobs of thousands of steelworkers are now at risk. The cost to local people and the wider Port Talbot community will be immense.
“Once again, we have the spectacle of leaders talking up the fantasy land of a ‘just transition’ while the bitter reality for workers is them getting the sack.”
Community Union: “It’s unbelievable any Government would give a company £500m to throw 3,000 workers on the scrapheap”
The union said in a statement:
“More than 3,000 jobs and the future of British steelmaking is at stake. It is an absolute disgrace that Tata Steel, and the UK Government, appear intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country. It’s unbelievable any Government would give a company £500m to throw 3,000 workers on the scrapheap, and our Government must reevaluate its miserly offer to support investment at Tata Steel.”
Neath Port Talbot Council Leader: “We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the many people, businesses and communities affected by this announcement.”
The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the many people, businesses and communities affected by this announcement.
“This council has fully engaged with the company and with the Transition Board which has been set up to support the transition process and we are ready to support the employees, businesses and our wider community as the company moves forward with its transition plans.
“We know at first hand how anxious people and businesses are and will be working hard, alongside the governments and other agencies involved, to provide help and support. This is a major, strategic issue and we will need close assistance from the UK and Welsh governments.
“As an organisation, we will offer guaranteed interviews for any council vacancies to people made redundant as a result of this change process. We know many of our public service partners are ready to make similar arrangements.
“The council has already received a commitment from the Transition Board to the long term regeneration of Port Talbot, ensuring new sustainable employment will be secured for the area to ensure there is a just transition as the steel plant decarbonises its operations. We will be working with the UK and Welsh governments and our local partners to bring forward advice on where that regeneration could be focused in the short, medium and long term.
“We will also continue to work with the company to help them secure the existing order book and new markets. It is essential we secure the long term future of steel making in Port Talbot for our local economy but also in the wider interests of national security.”
Cllr Huw David, Leader of Bridgend Council: “This is going to act like a shockwave, costing the Welsh Economy over £500m
Cllr Huw David, Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council said “the decision by Tata Steel to shut down blast furnaces at steelworks located in nearby Port Talbot will have devastating consequences for communities located across South Wales, and will cost the Welsh economy more than £500m.
“While the steelworks are based a few miles away in the neighbouring area of Neath Port Talbot, we estimate that it employs as many as 600 residents of Bridgend County Borough.
“Make no mistake that this is going to act like a shockwave, rippling through communities all across the region and affecting scores of businesses in the Tata supply chain where more than 10,000 people are employed.
“It is a devastating blow, one which makes the United Kingdom the only G20 nation without the ability to manufacture its own steel.
“Unions had developed a plan that would have allowed Tata to make a staggered transition over to the new technology while exploring additional steel-making options and protecting jobs, but unfortunately, Tata Steel rejected this.
“While I support efforts to find cleaner, greener ways of producing steel, I also believe that the UK should retain an interim ability to create its own steel from ore. Traditional blast furnaces will remain in use in India, so this is effectively a case of Welsh jobs being lost to another country.
“As a local authority, we are preparing to offer a range of support for residents who will be affected by this decision, and who face losing their livelihoods if this goes ahead.
“We are also acting alongside fellow local councils and organisations such as the WLGA and Welsh Government to urge the UK Government to continue discussions with Tata Steel and unions on the viable alternative plan.
“There is a clear and urgent need for all parties concerned to work together to find a mutually acceptable alternative for transitioning to cleaner, greener steel production in a way which safeguards jobs and the Welsh economy.”
David Rees MS: “Devastating for Steelworkers and the Community of Aberavon.”
In the wake of today’s announcement, Aberavon MS David Rees described the plans as ‘devastating’ for steelworkers and for the community of Aberavon and expressed his deep regret that both Tata and UK Government have failed to protect vital jobs in the leaving the UK as the only G20 nation without primary steel making capabilities.
He described the move towards producing green steel in the UK as ‘lacking commitment to work with Trade Unions’ in order for there to be a just and fair transition for workers from existing processes to new ones. This is not a positive step forward.
Here is the MS’s statement in full:
“Steelworkers and their families, as well as businesses in and around Port Talbot and my constituency of Aberavon will now suffer the consequences of the devastating loss of up to 2,500 jobs locally, as well as the knock-on impact this will have on neighbouring industries, businesses and the local economy in Port Talbot and Aberavon. Whilst the ongoing work of the Transition Board between UK Government, Welsh Government and Tata Steel that was established at the end of last year will aim to mitigate some of the impact to workers and businesses, it is a huge regret that Tata feel they are not able to accept the multi-union plan for its workforce and their ambition for a fair and just transition to the EAF furnace and other green steel production in Port Talbot. This plan would have saved thousands of jobs over the coming years and supported workers to transition and reskill in different industries, where appropriate.
“But what we have this week from Tata is a sharp and devastating plan which will see thousands of jobs lost in less than 18 months, and a catastrophic cascade of further job losses in the downward supply chain, not just locally in Port Talbot and Aberavon, but across Wales and the rest of the UK.
“I give my continued commitment with this community and I will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government and Trade Unions to support the steel workers and the local communities that will bear the brunt of these closures. We will fight for every single job at Port Talbot, and for a fair and just transition for all workers to protect this vital industry. It is possible with vision and commitment.
“Wales, and the UK, needs a primary steel making capability and this plan from Tata, or any current proposal from this UK government, does not deliver that. It’s time for a government to deliver on a just and fair transition to green steel production ”
Tom Giffard, MS: “This will be devastating for workers, families and the wider community”
Tom Giffard, MS for South Wales West said “The news of job losses at TATA Steel in Port Talbot will be devastating for those workers, their families and the wider community in South West Wales.
I look forward to working alongside the TATA Steel Transition Board to ensure that the £100m UK Government fund to retrain affected workers and regenerate the wider area is used effectively.”
Jane Dodds: “UK Government has failed towns like Port Talbot Across the Country”
The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:
“I am deeply disappointed to hear that Tata Steel will be closing their remaining blast furnaces in the UK. Something which could have a devastating impact on communities across the country, particularly in Port Talbot where the local economy is reliant on the nearby steel plant.
“The UK Conservative government, through their inability to support investment into UK steel, has failed towns like Port Talbot across the country. If the UK government was willing to implement a real and sustainable industrial strategy that protected jobs whilst simultaneously supporting the transition to low carbon sectors, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this mess.
“But now we are here, on the verge of witnessing the destruction of Port Talbot.
“The Prime Minister and his cabinet will never know what it’s like for the thousands of workers at risk of losing their jobs, they will never know the constant worrying and anxiety that comes with the prospect of losing one’s livelihood.
“They will never know, and they simply will never care.
“I urgently call on Tata Steel to put a pause on this decision and consider the impact that this will have. Losing so many jobs this summer during a financial crisis will be devastating.”
News from Wales Editor: “This is our community and the ripples will be devastating and far reaching.”
Lisa Baker, Editor of News from Wales and Owner of Need to See IT Publishing, expressed her sadness at the impact this will have on the local community:
“Need to See IT’s offices in Baglan Bay Innovation Centre are in the heart of Neath Port Talbot and only a short drive from the steelworks. This decision was made by UK Government without sufficient respect to consult Unions or even the Welsh Government and they have sold Welsh working people down the river.
“The workers and the families that this will affect are the people we see daily in our local supermarkets, in our town, in our cafes and restaurants and the ripples of this decision will be devastating and far reaching, going way beyond the steelworks. We stand in solidarity with the workers affected, and remain committed to sharing their stories and supporting industries in the town. These good people and our lovely town deserved better.”