UK union leaders have told Tata Steel that the closure of its Port Talbot blast furnaces will ‘risk the future of the company’s UK steelmaking’.
The steelmaker recently pulled its announcement of an expected loss of 3,000 jobs, which has allowed the unions to hold further discussions.
Two of the main unions representing workers, Community and GMB, are backing proposals drawn up by the consultancy Syndex and presented them to Tata Steel at a private meeting on 17 November, in a final effort to avert the job losses.
Tata Steel plans to replace the two blast furnaces with EAFs, but according to a report from The Guardian, they would only begin operating in 2027, and would require far fewer workers in the long term.
The Tata plan appears to have the backing of the UK government, which has pledged £500m to help it transition to electric arc furnaces, and which is negotiating a similar deal for Scunthorpe’s two blast furnaces. However, unions, local politicians in both places and the Labour party have argued that the government should insist on job guarantees.
The Syndex proposal for Port Talbot instead calls for a two-stage transition to electric arc furnaces that would protect 2,000 jobs. During the first phase, one of the blast furnaces and the parts of the plant that that process molten iron into coils of steel would remain open. The blast furnace would also be able to produce iron for use in the first of two potential electric arc furnaces alongside scrap metal. In the second phase, Tata Steel would close the second blast furnace in 2032, when another electric arc furnace would be built.
''The unions want to work with Tata and the government...we are ready to play our part, but we will not stand by and watch the decimation of our industry and communities.''Spokesperson from Community
Alun Davies, Community’s national officer for steel, said the talks with Tata had been positive. When asked about the details of the plan, a Community spokesperson argued that it could be achieved with ‘no compulsory redundancies’, adding that: ''The unions want to work with Tata and the government to make the business prosperous and sustainable protecting crucial jobs for generations to come. We are ready to play our part, but we will not stand by and watch the decimation of our industry and communities.''
''[The Syndex plan is] credible, workable and will secure decarbonized steelmaking in south Wales – as well as further down the supply chain.''Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, the national officer for steel at GMB
Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, the national officer for steel at GMB, said the Syndex plan was ‘credible, workable and will secure decarbonized steelmaking in south Wales – as well as further down the supply chain.’
Source: The Guardian