Tata steelworkers vote to strike

Unite members at Port Talbot and Llanwern to fight job losses and blast furnace closures

Reading time: 4 min

Around 1,500 Tata steelworkers based in Port Talbot and Newport Llanwern have voted decisively for industrial action over the company’s plan to close its blast furnaces and shed 2,800 jobs.

It is the first time in over 40 years that Port Talbot steelworkers have gone on strike.

The ballot for strike action by members of Unite closed on Thursday (April 11) with workers voting in favour of industrial action over Tata’s ‘disastrous’ plans. This was despite Tata threatening the workers with the loss of enhanced redundancy pay if they did.

Unite said Tata has other choices after the union secured a commitment from Labour that it will invest £3bn in UK steel, compared to the £500m pledged by the current government.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is an historic vote. Not since the 1980s have steel workers voted to strike in this way. This yes vote has happened despite Tata’s threats that if workers took strike action, enhanced redundancy packages would be withdrawn. Unite will be at the forefront of the fight to save steelmaking in Wales. We will support steel by all and every means.

“Other EU countries are transitioning their steel industries while retaining and growing their capacity because they know steel has a bright future – a tenfold increase in demand is predicted in the coming years. In the UK, Tata’s plans and those of the government reflect the short-term thinking of a clapped-out disinterested government marking time to a general election.

“In contrast Labour have done the right thing and committed £3 billion to UK steel following intense discussions with Unite.

“The average age of a Unite Port Talbot worker is 36. Workers and the communities of Port Talbot and Llanwern are looking to the years ahead. They know that with the right choices steelmaking capacity and jobs can be kept and the benefits of growing the industry grasped.

“In the crucial weeks to come, Tata’s workers and Unite will put up picket lines to prevent the company from taking this disastrous path.”

At the Tata plant in the Netherlands, the blast furnaces are being kept open and jobs protected as the company builds an electric arc furnace and invests in hydrogen DRI technology. In Germany, a single plant produces more steel than the whole of the UK industry put together.

Dates for strike action scheduled to cause maximum impact will be announced soon.

Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes added, “Tata has employed everything from bribes to threats to discourage our members from industrial action. They will not be intimidated into standing by while Tata attempts to carry out an act of devastating industrial vandalism against their jobs and communities, inflicting untold harm on the Welsh economy and the UK’s national interest.

“Our members have their union’s absolute support in striking to stop these cuts – Unite is backing them every step of the way.”

By Ryan Fletcher