Aberavon’s Stephen Kinnock MP and David Rees MS express concerns over job losses and lack of Union consultation over future of steelmaking in Port Talbot

Today’s announcement of a deal being reached between the UK Government and TATA Steel on the decarbonisation of steel making is well overdue, but it is hugely disappointing that the trade unions representing the workers at the plant have not been involved in the discussions on decarbonisation strategy.  It is now hoped that this announcement will initiate those discussions which can lead to ensuring steel making in the UK can move forward with greater certainty.  However, it must be recognised that this deal will not come without severe job losses within both TATA and all businesses in the supply chain for the ‘heavy end’ of steel making at Port Talbot.

The failure of the Conservative UK Government to have a wider vision to a decarbonisation pathway will result in many skilled and committed steelworkers losing their jobs and leaving many families uncertain for their futures. Both Tata and the UK Government, through this deal, must ensure that every opportunity is taken to protect as many jobs as possible and create a sustainable steel plant that can continue to offer a future to its workforce.

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, said:

“While investment to decarbonise our Port Talbot steelworks is necessary and long overdue, I am deeply concerned that the UK Government is failing to deliver the just transition to Green Steel that my hardworking constituents deserve, not least because Ministers have failed to adequately consult steel unions Community and GMB.

“At the heart of this failure is the narrow focus on electric arc furnace technology which will not only result in more job losses than necessary, but which simply cannot produce the qualities and grades of steel needed to meet the full spectrum of Tata’s customer base.

“Our European competitors are investing in a range of green steel-making capabilities in addition to EAFs – such as hydrogen, direct reduced iron and carbon capture – thus giving them the versatility that is needed to meet customer demand. The investment announced today may seem like a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to the investments made by European governments to competitor steel plants meaning that British steelmakers are once again being made to compete with one hand tied behind their backs.

“We need a plan that both protects the current order book whilst also building for the future, but this plan comes up short on both counts.

“The deliberate exclusion of the steel unions from this whole process is also deeply disappointing.  The fact that Tata Steel and the UK Government have ridden roughshod over the thousands of steelworkers who need and deserve to have a say in shaping the future of the steel industry is completely unacceptable.

“Steel underpins Britain’s national security, our critical national infrastructure and our entire manufacturing sector. It’s high time our steelmakers and steelworkers were given the respect they deserve.”

 David Rees, MS for Aberavon, said:

“Port Talbot has a proud history of steel making and the loss of its blast furnaces in the years ahead will see an end to traditional steel making in Wales.  I welcome the continuation of steel making in Port Talbot but the introduction of Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) will result in many areas of the steel plant closing and the use of scrap metal as the main raw material for making steel.  It is hugely disappointing that the Tory UK Government did not take this opportunity to support a combination of green steel production processes, just as our European competitors are doing.  The approach of combining the use of EAF with Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) & Hydrogen in steel making could make the UK a world leader in green steel manufacturing and we should be bold in grasping those opportunities.

“ Also, we cannot hide from the fact that this pathway to decarbonisation will see many steelworkers lose their livelihoods, creating hardships for families across our communities. I am seeking a meeting with the Welsh Government to discuss the impact of this announcement on the local economy and what actions can be put into place to support those steelworkers and contractors who will lose their jobs under this proposal.  I will also be working with the trade unions at the plant to protect as many jobs as possible.”

It is now crucial that both the UK Government and the Welsh Government look at ensuring that the freeport status of the CELTIC Freeport bid delivers the economic growth promised and job opportunities that will allow those workers whose jobs will be lost a future within the local region.