Port Talbot coking ovens to close

Unite slams Tata betrayal amid strike action vote to save jobs and prevent blast furnace closure

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Unite has slated Tata’s shock announcement today that it will be closing the coking ovens at Port Talbot steel works with near immediate effect.

Although the coking ovens were known to be in a state of disrepair, Tata had not indicated to trade unions during recent consultations that they were at risk of imminent closure. In fact, on Friday (March 18), Tata told the unions that it hoped to increase their capacity in the near future.

 The closure of the coking ovens does not change Unite’s position that there should be no job losses at Port Talbot or Llanwern and that a blast furnace should remain operational. 

 Unite regional secretary for Wales, Peter Hughes, said, “Tata’s decision to close the coking ovens is the result of years of betrayal. From the start, it has set out to manage the decline of UK steel while accepting government handouts to keep operations on life support.

“Tata needs to halt its plans and wait for Labour’s promised £3 billion to reinvigorate the UK’s steel industry. The time to fight for Port Talbot is now, which is why we are urging Tata’s workers to vote yes to strike action.”

Unite is currently balloting 1,500 Tata workers for industrial action. The vote closes on Tuesday 9 April and strike action could begin before the end of April.

Peter Hughes added, “On Friday, Tata updated unions that while the problems with the coking ovens continued, they had hopes to improve the situation soon. Just two days later and the company has announced it is closing them completely.

“Unite has previously called for an independent assessment into the viability of the coking ovens and that assessment is even more crucial now. Tata cannot be allowed to carry on its course of deliberate industrial vandalism. Unite will fight the company every step of the way.”

By Ryan Fletcher