Labour urges Tata 'don't switch off blast furnaces' before possible change of Government in election

Part of the Tata steelworks at Port Talbot
-Credit: (Image: John Myers)


Labour has once again called on Tata Steel not to switch off blast furnaces which will cost thousands of jobs in south Wales until after the General Election.

Arc furnaces, which are more environmentally friendly, are set to replace the traditional blast furnaces at the Port Talbot steelworks, but they require thousands fewer staff - meaning up to 2,800 people could be made redundant.

Senior figures in the Labour party visited Tata in Port Talbot today (Monday, June 10) and urged the company to wait for a possible Labour government next month so fresh talks can take place. The hopes is that one furnace can be left on while a transition to green steel production takes place - something a union has called for. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

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Steelworkers plan to ban overtime as part of industrial action in protest at the job loses, starting on June 18. But shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens said she was "convinced" that discussions could take place that would lead to a different outcome for the plant. "We wouldn't be here if we didn't think there could be some sort of deal," she said.

"What we have said to Tata all along is please don't make any irreversible decisions before the General Election. And that means not switching off the blast furnace, which is due to happen at the end of this month. We want them to look at the union plan again, we want to talk to them, they know that we have our green steel fund ready to go, that will be there to support Welsh steel workers and steel workers across the United Kingdom to ensure a smooth transition to decarbonised steel."

Welsh Labour leader, Vaughan Gething, said there was now a "very real prospect" of a Labour government "with a different agenda", and that Tata had expected an election would take place in the autumn, rather than now. He said: "This is about the future of all of us in Wales and Britain and it's right that we are here today."

Unions have claimed Tata has threatened to cut redundancy pay if workers take industrial action but Mr Gething, who lost a vote of no confidence in his continuing as First Minister in a vote in the Senedd last week, said he expected Tata to negotiate "in good faith" with unions and Labour.

"Suggesting that there would be a reduction in the redundancy offer is not something that my government could support, I will be clear with the company when I meet them shortly," he added.

Bosses at Tata have claimed the company is losing £1m a day and the changes, first announced in January, are needed to stop this happening. It was not safe and made no financial sense to continue with blast furnace operations while at the same time building an electric arc furnace, it said.

A spokesman previously said of redundancy payments: "The enhanced package will remain in place unless industrial action is taken, in which case it would revert to our standard terms. In light of the ongoing impact on the business, the potential for further disruption, and in order to ensure safe and stable operations, we are now considering bringing forward the dates for the closure of blast furnace 5 and the winding down of operations across the wider heavy-end."