MEMBERS of Neath Port Talbot Council have responded after owners of the Port Talbot steelworks’ site Tata, confirmed it will cut 2,800 jobs across the UK and shut down the blast furnaces at the famed Welsh plant.
The Indian-owned steel giant released a statement confirming news of the closure, which had been expected since September when it published details of its agreement with the UK Government, to invest £1.25bn into the Port Talbot steelworks, to support a transition to greener, electric steel making.
The plans will see the firm look to install electric steel recycling furnaces at the site, and shut down its two primary steel making blast furnaces, some time in the coming months.
It will lead to a major loss of jobs in the area, as electric arc steel making, which involves recycling steel as opposed to making ‘virgin steel’, does not require as many members of staff to run.
Unions had urged Tata to stagger the transition over the next ten years to protect jobs and investigate alternative forms of green steel production, however the company said it will push ahead to “reverse more than a decade of losses and transition from the legacy blast furnaces to a more sustainable, green steel business.”
Cllr Rob Jones is the leader of the Labour group in Neath Port Talbot and said the closure of the iconic furnaces will have a major impact on the community of Port Talbot, and the wider area in the future.
He said: “I’ve been out in the community today to gauge the feeling after the news came out from Tata, and people are very down, and very worried. They are afraid now because the future is uncertain. This plant has been producing steel for over 100 years and that’s going to cease at some point this year.
“We’re not just looking at the immediate 2,500 people that are employed by Tata coming out of the Port Talbot plant, but estimates in relation to the ripple effect on the supply chain suggest it could put anywhere in the region of 10,000 to 15,000 people at risk, so this will have a massive effect on the economy.”
Cllr Saifur Rahaman of Port Talbot added: “This is devastating news and I must say I am really concerned about the workforce and their families at this very difficult time. With everything going on at the moment I think this news is going to have a huge impact on our community and our town as a whole.”
The leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the many people, businesses and communities affected by this announcement.
“This council has fully engaged with the company and with the Transition Board which has been set up to support the transition process and we are ready to support the employees, businesses and our wider community as the company moves forward with its transition plans.
“We know at first hand how anxious people and businesses are and will be working hard, alongside the governments and other agencies involved, to provide help and support. This is a major, strategic issue and we will need close assistance from the UK and Welsh governments.
“As an organisation, we will offer guaranteed interviews for any council vacancies to people made redundant as a result of this change process. We know many of our public service partners are ready to make similar arrangements.
“The council has already received a commitment from the Transition Board to the long term regeneration of Port Talbot, ensuring new sustainable employment will be secured for the area to ensure there is a just transition as the steel plant de-carbonises its operations.
“We will be working with the UK and Welsh governments and our local partners to bring forward advice on where that regeneration could be focused in the short, medium and long term. We will also continue to work with the company to help them secure the existing order book and new markets. It is essential we secure the long term future of steel making in Port Talbot for our local economy but also in the wider interests of national security.”