UK steel jobs safe after multinational commits to plants
December 7, 2016 by Danica Kirka The Associated Press
Dec. 7, 2016 – More than 4,000 jobs that were at risk at a steel plant in Port Talbot, Wales, have been secured after unions got a commitment from multinational Tata Steel to keep production there.
The announcement Wednesday that Tata would keep two blast furnaces operating for five years came after hours of meetings with union leaders. Compulsory redundancies will be avoided but unions say the revised pension plan remains “worrying.”
“This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and bring serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steelworks across the U.K.,” said Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union. “Reaching this stage of the process is a credit to the hard work of our members, who never gave up the fight to ‘Save Our Steel’ — it was their jobs on the line and it has been their campaign that has brought Tata to this position.”
The future of the plant and others around the U.K. had been in doubt since March when Tata Steel, based in India, announced plans to sell its U.K. operations.
The business was losing 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) a day due to high costs and a glut of cheap Chinese steel in global markets. That raised fears the plant would close if Tata couldn’t find a buyer, eliminating 4,000 jobs.
Over the summer, Tata announced it was talking to Germany’s Thyssenkrupp about a potential joint venture in Europe and effectively halted the sale of its British businesses.
But it’s not over yet. Union members must still vote on the measures and representatives of the leadership said that the government would still need to do its part to help the deal happen.
“The commitments made today by our reps must now be followed by a commitment from the government that they will hold Tata to their word and ensure jobs are protected,” Unite’s national officer, Tony Brady said. “The U.K. steel industry supports our whole manufacturing sector and it is vitally important that the future of that industry is secured for generations to come.”
The British government has said it is willing to take a 25 per cent stake in any rescue of Tata in a bid to save steel jobs.