Steel talks 'extremely positive'

Unite hails meeting with new business secretary over future of Tata Steel

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Unite has hailed what it called ‘extremely positive’ talks with the incoming Labour government’s business secretary Jonathan Reynolds over the future of steel in Port Talbot.

The meeting was held on Wednesday morning (July 10) amid government negotiations with Tata to secure a new deal that preserves jobs and a viable future for the plant.

Earlier this month, Tata Steel closed one of its blast furnaces and vowed it would press ahead with plans to close a second blast furnace in September. The proposals will put around 2,800 jobs at risk.

Unite members at Tata Steel were poised to take all-out strike action this week but agreed to pause the action on July 1 after Tata said that it would enter negotiations on future investment and not just redundancies.

Commenting on the latest talks with business secretary Reynolds, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Our meeting with the business secretary was extremely positive. It is clear that the new secretary of state for business understands the need to secure the future of steelmaking in Britain.

“The commitment given to achieving a sustainable, profitable UK steel industry is very welcome and as was said this morning, decarbonisation must not mean deindustrialisation.

“In recent months, Unite has been fighting to save jobs at Tata and to revitalise the UK steel industry for the future of communities and for our national security. We are at a critical first stage but the extra investment now secured and the change of attitude from this new Labour government could be the game changers in making this happen.”

The previous Conservative government had pledged £500m in investment so that Tata could build a new electric arc furnace. After discussions with trade unions and other stakeholders, Labour pledged in its manifesto that it would provide an additional £2.5bn to secure a future for the steel industry in the UK.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, business secretary Reynolds said of his talks with Tata Steel, “There is a lot more that this deal could do. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I think I’ve got to try.”

He added, “Steel is vital for a vibrant, secure economy and our steel sector needs a government working in partnership with trade unions and business to secure a green steel transition that’s right for the workforce whilst delivering economic growth.”

Stay tuned on UniteLive for the latest on Tata Steel negotiations.

By Hajera Blagg