Furious Tata workers claim they were 'forced' to sign 'strike form' at meeting

-Credit: (Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)
-Credit: (Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)


Workers whose jobs are under threat at Wales’ biggest steelworks plant have been forced to fill in a form against their will to confirm if they intend to take part in impending strike action, it has been claimed. Employees at Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant were called to a meeting at the site on Thursday. They were told it was a meeting to discuss the organisation’s structure moving forward and the planned industrial action which is set to take place later this month.

However, according to disgruntled staff, a form was handed out at the meeting which asked those in attendance to confirm several pieces of information - their name, job title, staff number, and whether or not they intend to take part in strikes. To get the latest WalesOnline newsletters e-mailed to you directly for free, click here.

At the end of last month, Unite, one of three unions representing workers at the site, confirmed that it would begin industrial action from June 18 in protest at Tata Steel’s plans to close blast furnaces in Port Talbot over the next three months. That decision will mean 1,900 direct job losses at the site and up to another 900 further afield. This led to Tata Steel CEO Rajesh Nair writing to workers and threatening to bring forward the date on which the blast furnaces will close.

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According to angry members of staff who contacted WalesOnline, people were “forced” to fill in and sign the form handed to them during Thursday’s meeting, with claims that they were not allowed to leave the meeting room until they had done so. One worker at the Port Talbot site said “employees were told they were unable to leave the building until they had completed the form”. The employee said that “one senior manager even went as far as putting his arm across the door to prevent people exiting the conference room”, and that “another senior manager was stepping into the path of people trying to leave, demanding their completed form”. The company has denied this, saying that it "does not recognise the events as described".

The worker, who did not want to be named, said the behaviour of management was “unethical” and went against all of Tata Steel’ “supposed values”. They added: “The whole point of being a part of a union is that you can’t victimise one person but Tata is trying to undermine that by asking individuals what they intend to do. People were not keen (on signing the form) and they said they needed to speak their union first, only to be told it was not a union matter and that they needed to sign the form ‘now’.” Want fewer ads? Download WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android.

The form handed to Tata workers during Thursday's meeting -Credit:Media Wales
The form handed to Tata workers during Thursday's meeting -Credit:Media Wales

Of the meeting, which lasted around an hour in total, the employee said: “It was intimidating having management there. There was no private facility to read over the form or discuss it - and we are convinced that the meeting was called as a ruse to get the maximum attendance. It’s not right. I’m staggered that they even tried to do this. I can’t believe the company is behaving like this, a company which is still pretending that they are acting compassionately and generously while making 2,800 people jobless and effectively thousands more contracting partners.” The employee added that some felt pressured into signing the form while others plainly refused and managed to leave the building without doing so.

Copies of the form - entitled ‘declaration of participation in industrial action’ - were sent to WalesOnline on Thursday night. It reads: “I confirm that I will be taking part/did take part in industrial action in the form of participating in strike action and withholding labour on the following date(s) (please tick all that apply).” Under the ‘declaration’ section of the form, directly above where staff were meant to sign, the form stated: “I understand that Tata Steel UK will withhold pay for each day I have indicated that I will be/was on strike.”

A member of staff said that “while Tata has the right to request this information, nobody is under any obligation to share their intentions - attempting to keep employees in a room until demands are met is completely unacceptable”. Unite echoed this sentiment in a letter written to members, also seen by WalesOnline. It read: “Unite has been made aware of meetings taking place where senior management are forcing members to sign a document to confirm if they are taking part in industrial action. Although the company can ask this question, they should not be forcing anyone to fill this form in. This is trade union victimisation - we are advising all members NOT to fill this in. We have also been made aware senior management are advising members that our ballot is illegal. This, simply, is not true.”

A spokesperson for Tata Steel said: “We have put forward the most generous employee support package in our history, which is still being considered by two of the three trades unions. No union has declared strike action. We do not recognise the events as described. To ensure our people stay safe it is critical for us to understand the nature and extent of any intended industrial action so we can put in place appropriate cover or stop operations. Our own people are the first to recognise the necessity of this safety-first approach.

“We have written to Unite union three times regarding substantial irregularities and errors in their ballot and we are considering our next legal steps, which could include court action. We are reminding all employees of the nature of their employment contracts such that no-one takes any action that may inadvertently put them in breach of that contract."

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