28 June 2024

Labour urges Tata to avoid irreversible action on Port Talbot plant pre-election

28 June 2024

Labour politicians have urged Tata to avoid taking action that cannot be reversed before the election result after the steel giant announced it was bringing forward plans to shut down blast furnaces at its biggest plant because of a strike.

The company had been planning to shut down one of the blast furnaces at Port Talbot in south Wales by the end of June and the second one by September.

But workers were 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.

All parties must pull back from the brink and negotiate to protect jobs and the interests of all union members at Tata Steel UK

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.”

Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Aberafan Maesteg, and David Rees, Labour’s Member of the Senedd for Aberavon, said on Friday: “Everybody recognises that the number one priority in these negotiations has to be the safety and security of steelworkers and the plant.

“Tata wouldn’t be in this position of facing strike action had it not chosen to press ahead at break-neck speed with the closures of the blast furnaces.

“We have been consistently clear throughout this process that Tata should avoid taking any action that cannot be reversed before waiting to see the result of the General Election, given the very real prospect of sitting down with an incoming Labour Government to discuss its promised £2.5 billion Steel Renewal Fund.

“More immediately, Tata and Unite must get back around the table to reach an agreement on securing the safety of the site at all times which would include agreeing on the derogations required to prevent strikes causing safety risks, thus removing the need to close down Blast Furnace 5 early.

“This will allow an incoming Labour Government time to negotiate the future of steel making in Wales with Tata.”

Alun Davies, national officer of the Community union said: “Community condemns Tata’s unacceptable decision to bring forward the closure of the Port Talbot blast furnaces.

“We continue to support the Labour Party’s call for Tata not to make irreversible decisions before the General Election, and we urge all stakeholders to engage in meaningful discussions through the Multi-Union Steel Committee.

We need a just transition for workers in the UK, and Tata must wait for a new government to ensure that Port Talbot and its steelworkers have a safe and secure future, producing greener, cleaner steel

“All parties must pull back from the brink and negotiate to protect jobs and the interests of all union members at Tata Steel UK.”

Greenpeace UK’s head of climate Mel Evans said: “Tata should be listening to its steelworkers, not slamming the door behind them as soon as they threaten to walk out.

“A better deal for green primary steelmaking is possible, and with less than one week to go until the UK elects a new and potentially more sympathetic government, closing the steelworks before those newly elected ministers have sat down at the negotiating table is a costly mistake.

“It will have devastating consequences for the thousands of steelworkers set to lose their jobs, for the local community, and for steel production in the UK.

Tata said it was bringing forward its plans (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

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