NEATH PORT TALBOT Council have have called upon Tata Steel UK to work with trade unions and partners to mitigate any impacts of changes to their workforce at the company’s Port Talbot site over the coming months.
The motion, which was supported by members at a full council meeting on November 15, followed the Indian steel giant’s agreement with the UK Government, to invest £1.25bn into the Port Talbot steelworks, to install electric steel recycling furnaces and shut down its two primary steel making blast furnaces.
The announcement has led to concerns from unions in recent weeks that more than 3,000 jobs could be axed as a result of the plans, as electric arc steel making, which involves recycling steel as opposed to making ‘virgin steel’, does not require as many members of staff.
It has also led to a number of residents, union members and politicians speaking up against the proposals, calling on the UK Government to step in on the plans, they claim could leave thousands without jobs, as well as destroying the very fabric of the area.
While addressing members at the monthly council meeting, Council leader Steve Hunt proposed that the local authority pass a motion, calling on Tata to work with trade unions and partners to mitigate the impact of changes on their workforce, as well as making a commitment to the regeneration of Port Talbot in both the long and short term.
He said: “Neath Port Talbot Council is concerned at the prospect of Tata Steel implementing a transition plan that would lead to the immediate loss of thousands of well-paid and secure jobs in our local economy and more widely.
“We recognise the need for the steel industry to decarbonise and welcome the news that Tata Steel UK plans to invest in new facilities that will secure steel making in this area into the future. We believe it is important that these plans secure the existing order book whilst also positioning the company to exploit emerging markets.
“We call on Tata Steel UK to work with their recognised trade unions and wider partners to mitigate the impact of the planned changes on their workforce, supply chain and the communities of Port Talbot.
“We also call on the Tata Steel/Port Talbot Transition Board to make a clear commitment to the short, medium and long term regeneration of Port Talbot, securing new and high value jobs that will sustain our economy and communities into the future and deliver a just transition.”
Labour Councillor for Port Talbot, Sharon Freeguard, said she supported the motion, adding: “If what we hear is true, and I hope it isn’t, that the heavy end will close and thousands of jobs will go, then the effect and the impact will be absolutely immense.
“The effects of loss of jobs and of steel will have a massive and even a devastating impact on families, on the local economy and on public services going forward. I use the word devastating not lightly, but it will be absolutely devastating to this town and it will have far reaching consequences.”
Cllr Rob Jones is the leader of the Labour group in Neath Port Talbot, and said while he also supported the motion he didn’t think it went far enough, given the number of jobs that could be lost as a result of the transition- with impacts potentially seen on as many as 18,000 jobs in the wider supply chain.
He said: “I will be supporting the motion today but to be honest with you I don’t think the motion goes far enough in relation to what we need to achieve as a local authority, and I would have preferred it to have seen more local focus than a generic statement.
“There is approximately 3,000 people that will potentially lose their jobs through the mothballing of the heavy end and steel making as it stands. What is more concerning, that our own business unit says there’s 18,000 people that are either in the supply chain or work in Tata as contractors.”
In a previous statement a Tata Steel spokesperson said: “We hope to soon start a formal information and consultation process with our employee representatives, in which we would share more details about any such proposals.
“We believe our £1.25 billion proposal to transition to green steel making will secure the business for the longer term, bolster UK steel security and help develop a green ecosystem in the region. We are committed to a meaningful information and consultation process with our trade union partners and will carefully consider any proposals put forward.”