Last night (March 29) the steel industry was dealt a hammer blow as TataSteel UK announced that it plans to completely withdraw from its British operation, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The board, who had been meeting in India, decided to pull out of the UK after rejecting a turnaround plan for Port Talbot, the nation’s biggest steelworks.
The 5,500 steelworkers based at the South Wales plant now face an uncertain future as Tata begins to look for a buyer for its British steel assets.
UNITElive spoke to Mark Turner, Unite’s branch secretary at Port Talbot about how the news had been taken by the workers.
“The news that Tata is looking to sell Port Talbot has come as a huge shock to us all as we were told right from that start that selling Port Talbot was not an option,” said Mark.
“We still feel very much in the dark and are yet to receive anything formally from the company. All we know we are getting through news updates. We all remain optimistic though. Selling the plant gives us hope. They haven’t said they’re closing it. So we must see the positive in that,” he added.
Mark went on to explain that if the industry is to survive the government needs to intervene now.
“The UK government needs to step in and help the industry now. They can’t just keep talking. We need action and it has to be now. Politics for tomorrow are no good to us,” he added.
He laid out what the government must do to save the UK’s steel industry.
“They need to assist with finding a buyer for the site. We need help with business rates too and procurement must be addressed properly. I also think we need more money for training too.
“Minister Anna Soubry says that the government is considering all options – I’d love to know what these options are. We have seen no action from the government at all. They need to spell it out – what do they mean and what do they intend to do,” said Mark.
“Our lives are in the hand of bodies outside of our control. We are at their mercy. We need to know if there are prospective buyers. At the moment everything hangs in the balance.
“I lay the blame for all of this solely with the government. They have sat by and watch all of this unfold. You can’t blame Tata. They have played a huge part in keeping this industry going strong against all odds and for that we are all entirely grateful,” Mark added.
He concluded, “My message to potential buyers is that you won’t get a more committed and dedicated workforce that ours. Every single one of us is proud to be a British steelworker, proud of our work and of our industry. All we want is to continue to make steel and be proud.
“If Port Talbot steelworks were to close the entire town would be devastated. Everybody either works at the plant, knows someone or is related to someone who works at the plant.”