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Labour calls for job support and training guarantee for any Port Talbot redundancies

LABOUR has called for a job support and training guarantee to cover workers who could be made redundant from Port Talbot steelworks in a matter of weeks.

With the first blast furnace planned to shut at the end of June, Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens has demanded that the government act faster to get support in place for workers and communities, by drawing on existing funding already committed to support workers and local economic growth in the area.

The party has called for dedicated employment advisors to be placed in the community to coordinate and deliver support for those affected. This includes acting as a consistent point of contact, setting up employment hubs and job fairs, matching private-sector vacancies with those who have relevant skills and identifying gaps in support on an ongoing basis.

The Labour Party has also called for a separate pot that can be bid into for retraining based on a needs assessment of the workforce by employment advisors. This would help fund anything beyond what is already funded via existing entitlements.

This support would be paid for by a small portion of the funds already committed to support workers and local economic growth. The rest of the money could be used on local regeneration and future economic growth as per the Board’s aims for the funds.

The TATA Steel / Port Talbot Transition Board, chaired by the Welsh Secretary, has access to £100m to support workers and the regional economy.

In the six months since the Transition Board was formed, it has met five times, formed two sub-committees and achieved little else. At present, none of the money has been committed to support on the ground. It’s next meeting is tomorrow (Thursday).

The government’s deal with TATA means Blast Furnaces will close at the end of June and September, costing up to 3,000 direct jobs, across south Wales.  A leaked report received by the Transition Board has suggested that the figure could be much higher, with up to 9,500 jobs at risk in the wider supply chain.

Labour has also committed to invest up to an additional £2.5bn – on top of the Government’s planned £500 million – in the UK steel industry during the next Parliament if it wins the general election. Party figures have repeatedly urged TATA not to make any irreversible decisions about the future of Port Talbot prior to a general election.

A formal period of consultation between Tata Steel and the unions over its plans has ended, and the company as indicated it intends to press ahead with the closure of both Port Talbot blast furnaces by the end of September.

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Jo Stevens, Labour’s Shadow Wales Secretary, said: “Thousands of jobs are at risk in Port Talbot and steel communities across south Wales because Conservative ministers have failed to act, with devastating economic shockwaves that will reverberate for decades. The Welsh Secretary’s Transition Board looks more like a talking shop.

“Our steel fund will ensure the future of the industry will be fuelled by the skills, talent and ambition of Welsh steelworkers and we have repeatedly said no irreversible decisions should be made before a general election.

“Labour doesn’t want to see a single job go at the site, but Conservative Ministers must up their game and prepare at much greater speed to protect workers and communities. Our jobs support and training guarantee offers workers reassurance that we will have their backs whatever happens.”