Talks over Tata steel plans have broken down, say unions

Community, the GMB and Unite said that the company was ‘completely disregarding’ the impact of its plans on workers and local communities.

Tata Steel’s Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales
Tata Steel’s Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

Unions representing workers at steel giant Tata say talks with the company over its plans to shut down blast furnaces at its biggest plant have broken down.

Community, the GMB and Unite said in a joint statement that the company was “completely disregarding” the impact of its plans on the workers and local communities.

Tata is planning to switch to a more environmentally-friendly method of producing steel at the Port Talbot plant in South Wales, which will result in the loss of thousands of jobs. The company says 5,000 jobs will be secured.

Members of Unite have voted to strike, while Community and the GMB is currently balloting their members for industrial action.

The unions said any industrial action will be taken “together, in a strategic way”.

Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “It’s disappointing that talks with Tata broke down without an agreed position, but the company’s proposals are completely unacceptable.

“Tata talks the talk and wants to be seen as a caring responsible employer, but the reality is they are determined to cut jobs and punish their most vulnerable employees who want job security.

“We have told the company, in the strongest terms, that their actions and failure to engage in meaningful negotiations is not good enough, and we will now consult our members on our next steps.”

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “Following seven months of information sharing and consultation, last week we confirmed that we will be proceeding with our restructuring plans and a £1.25billion investment in green steelmaking to secure over 5,000 jobs in Tata Steel UK.

“This week we have continued our open and constructive discussions with trades union partners through the UK Steel Committee.

“We have this week put forward an extensive offer that includes the enhanced employee support package we announced on 22 March as well as a generous proposal for a skills and retraining scheme for employees who are made redundant involuntarily, which would have allowed people to elect to remain employed by the company on revised terms for up to a further year whilst they retrain and secure employment with another employer.

“Today, we have paused those discussions without coming to an agreement. Our focus remains on creating a sustainable steel industry in the UK that supports manufacturing supply chains and steel communities through a just transition to low CO2 steelmaking.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite does not accept the logic of making any redundancies when steel demand is set to rocket. We have shown that another future is possible and it is already happening in other countries.

“The derogatory offers that Tata has been putting forward have just been adding insult to injury.

“Frankly, right now it looks like their sole interest is to pocket whatever they can get in the short term while throwing steel workers, their communities, and the national interest on the scrapheap.”