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“Shambolic” treatment of Port Talbot steelworkers sparks protest

Tata Steel is facing strong criticism from its workers due to what they describe as “shambolic” treatment of employees at the UK’s largest steelworks, located in Port Talbot.

Approximately 25 union members held a protest near the plant in response to the company’s recent communication with unions, indicating that as many as 3,000 jobs could be eliminated in the coming months.

Ian Williams, a representative of the Unite union, expressed dissatisfaction with Tata’s treatment of its workforce, claiming that the company exhibited “no respect” for its employees. Tata Steel, an Indian multinational corporation, countered by stating that it had made “every effort” to keep employees informed of developments.

On Thursday evening, hundreds of employees gathered for a meeting organized by their respective unions at the Tata Sports and Social Club, located in proximity to the steelworks, as their shifts concluded. Earlier in the week, unions reported that Tata Steel had informed them of intentions to cease blast furnace production at the Port Talbot plant, which currently employs 4,000 people, by March 2024. It was anticipated that Tata would officially confirm these plans following a board meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday, but the announcement was unexpectedly canceled.

This situation unfolds after the UK government pledged £500 million to maintain the Port Talbot site, which was inaugurated in 1951 and was once a major employer with nearly 20,000 workers during its prime.

On Wednesday evening, Tata, with a workforce of 8,000 individuals spread across the UK, stated that it could not yet issue an official statement regarding any plans for transitioning to a decarbonised future for Tata Steel UK. The company further expressed its intention to initiate a formal consultation with its employees in the near future.

Ian Williams, Unite’s representative at the steelworks, said: “I think the whole way it has been handled is shambolic,”

“Tata uses their values of integrity, honesty, trust. There was none of that yesterday, [with] the way the workforce are being treated in there.”

“This is 10,000-plus jobs because you’ve got all the communities, the families, the contractors, and the way they’ve done this is just they’ve got no respect at all for their workforce.”

It was alleged that Tata Steel would have shut down its Port Talbot facility and withdrawn from the UK had the government not committed £500 million to support Tata’s £1.25 billion initiative to transition to a decarbonized operational model.

David TC Davies, the Welsh Secretary, disclosed that UK government officials had agreed to allocate £500 million for the establishment of a new furnace and to safeguard 5,000 jobs out of the 8,000 total workforce, with 4,000 positions based at the Port Talbot plant, known as one of the largest sources of pollution in the UK. These jobs would be replaced with more environmentally friendly arc furnaces, which are anticipated to become operational within three years following regulatory and planning approvals.

Stephen Kinnock, the Member of Parliament representing Aberavon, expressed that the workers and their families had “once again suffered huge anxiety as their futures and livelihoods were thrown into a black hole”.

He went on to say: “Yesterday’s fiasco demonstrates that Tata must now engage with the unions and fundamentally re-think their proposals so that a new approach can be agreed,”

A spokesperson for Tata Steel said: “Whenever we have a significant announcement to share, we make every effort to inform our employees and their representatives first.”