Tata industrial action start date confirmed as Port Talbot steelworkers fight job cuts

Tata steelworks in Port Talbot
-Credit: (Image: John Myers)


The date industrial action will start at Port Talbot's Tata plant has been announced. One of three unions which represents workers at the site has said it will begin industrial action from June 18.

Unite represents around 1,500 Tata steelworkers based in Port Talbot and the Llanwern site. It is understood that in the four Unite ballots held at Port Talbot and Llanwern, a total of 1,366 Unite members were invited to ballot, of which 857 voted.

The workers, who are members of Unite, will begin working to rule as well as taking part in a continuous overtime ban from June 18. The union says industrial action will "severely disrupt and delay Tata’s operations and order book".

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We understand the claim about the impact of disruption is contested, as those who will be impacted are not those who operate equipment. A spokesman for Tata said the company is "naturally disappointed" by the action and it will continue to review and consider its legal next steps.

Unite says strike action will be scheduled if the company does not row back on its plans to close the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot and replace them with an electric arc furnace. It will result in 1,900 direct job losses at Port Talbot but 2,800 within the Tata UK operation. There will likely be thousands more indirect job losses.

One blast furnace is due to close at the end of June with the second closed in September. Two other unions represent workers at Tata, Community and the GMB, and they have also balloted their members about industrial action but are currently looking at a new offer from Tata.

The Indian-owned steel giant had threatened to withdraw a generous redundancy deal if they voted for strike action. You can read more about that here.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Tata has miscalculated, its workers know a better future is possible and they will be taking industrial action to fight for it, with Unite using every tool at its disposal to make the company change course. This hugely wealthy company knows UK steel capacity and jobs can be retained as the transition is made to green steel.

"Tata’s disastrous deal with the current government would only see its other overseas operations take advantage of the coming boom in green steel at the expense of south Wales. Now that we will have a new government in July, Tata can no longer ignore Labour’s call to wait for the £3 billion UK Steel Investment Fund, a commitment secured by Unite." For the latest politics news in Wales sign up to our newsletter here.

Unite regional secretary for Wales, Peter Hughes, said: "Our members will not stand quietly by and allow Tata to needlessly trash jobs and communities and commit serious harm to both the Welsh economy and national security. Unite is backing them to the hilt as they take industrial action to force Tata to stop its job cuts."

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “We are naturally disappointed that the Unite Union has decided to ask its members to take industrial action at Port Talbot and Llanwern. We have written to Unite Union twice during the ballot process, and again this week, to notify them of significant irregularities in the ballot process they have undertaken. We will continue to review and consider our legal next steps.

"In March, we put forward a significantly enhanced, comprehensive package of support for employees impacted by the proposed transformation. Following further discussions with the multi-union UK Steel Committee, the company has put forward a further enhanced offer in good faith and in order to finalise discussions on the proposed Memorandum of Understanding covering our restructuring and transformation, forward aspirations for the business, and the employment support package arrangements:

  • A further improvement to the number of average weeks of pay to 2.8 weeks for each year of service up to a maximum of 25 years

  • An increase to the minimum redundancy payment of £15,000 (pro-rata for part-time employees)

  • The provision of the £5,000 ‘retention’ ex-gratia payment to all those electing to join to re-training/re-skilling scheme

  • Confirmation that there will be no redundancies before September 2024 and that notice for those Operations employees directly impacted by the closure of Blast Furnace 4 and the wider heavy end will not be served until 1 September 2024"

The spokesperson added: “While the £1.25 billion commitment with the UK Government will ensure a long-term viable future for low-CO2 steelmaking in the UK, our current business is unsustainable, today reporting losses of £364 million in 2023/4 - more than £1million a day.

“By restructuring our UK operations we will be able to sustain the business as we transition to new electric arc furnace technology. We believe we have a very exciting future ahead, providing the high quality, low-CO2 steels that our customers in the UK and overseas are so desperate for. Our ambition remains to move forward at pace with a just transition, and to become the centre of a future green sustainable industrial ecosystem in the UK.”