Local politicians have met with Tata Steel in a bid to get clarity and assurances over mounting speculation that the potential Tata Steel-ThyssenKrupp joint venture will lead to the sale of Tata Steel’s Trostre Plant.
The meeting was triggered by media reports that European Union’s competition authorities are looking at whether the potential joint venture will lead to a lack of competition in the steel packaging sector. If the EU concludes that it would limit competition, then it is possible that packaging businesses, such as the Trostre plant, will have to be sold.
Stephen Kinnock MP, Nia Griffith MP, David Rees AM and a representative of Lee Waters AM have raised concerns that any sale of Trostre could damage the local economy and workforce, not least because a significant volume of rolled steel is supplied to Trostre from Port Talbot every year. The possible sale of Trostre, therefore, raises direct concerns about the plant itself, but poses very serious questions about the knock-on effect for Port Talbot.
Last month the steel trade unions issued a statement expressing deepening concern regarding the joint venture. The politicians made it clear that they stand four-square behind the unions’ statement.
In the meeting, the politicians said that, while they were still optimistic about the joint venture being a success, they cannot support any move that puts local jobs at risk or risks the long-term future of the steel industry in South Wales. Tata Steel agreed to keep MPs informed about how the talks with the EU develop.
“The conversation between Tata Steel, myself and other politicians was constructive and illustrated a deep commitment by all parties towards securing the long-term future of steel-making in South Wales. But it is now up to Tata Steel to deliver on these promises by taking action to ensure production at Port Talbot does not become a victim of the Joint Venture," said Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon.
“Since 2016, when Tata Steel announced its original plan to potentially sell the Port Talbot works, we have fought alongside steelworkers to ensure the sustainability of the Welsh and British steel industry. When Tata Steel announced a plan to invest in their steel sector in the UK it seemed that we had turned the corner and were moving towards a strong future. It is now imperative that Tata Steel delivers on those promises and expectations through a joint venture strategy that protects jobs and industry in Trostre and Aberavon.”
Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli said: "This is a very worrying time for everyone at Trostre, and that's why I was anxious to convey our very real concerns about the joint venture and to stress that if it really does come down to selling off Trostre, then Tata Steel must secure a genuine long-term future for the plant."
David Rees, AM for Aberavon, said he wishes to see actions that delivery on the promises given of 'investment into our steel plants'.
"Throughout recent years steelworkers have demonstrated their commitment to the future of steel making, as part of this joint venture we now need the industry to step up," Rees added.
Lee Waters, AM for Llanelli, commented: "It's clear that we need to press the competition authorities to ensure that if they force Trostre to be put up for sale, it is on a firm footing and able to compete in a changing marketplace."
According to Waters, there is no reason why Trostre can't be a part of Wales' steel making in the future. "So if we do see a sale as part of a merger, we need Tata as the current owner to act responsibly. Making sure the plant can be successful over the long term, and remain a key employer in Llanelli."