'We must keep up the fight'

Unite steel campaign stages protest ahead of Tata Steel bosses giving evidence to Parliament

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Unite staged a demonstration outside Parliament’s Portcullis House to coincide with Tata Steel bosses giving evidence to a select committee hearing on the steel industry on Wednesday (January 31).

The packed protest brought together Unite steel reps, activists and supporters who sent a loud and clear message that they will not stand for needless job losses and the destruction of the British steel industry.

The select committee hearing, where Unite reps and researchers also gave evidence, comes after Tata Steel announced earlier this month that it would be closing both blast furnaces at the Port Talbot steelworks, resulting in more than 2,800 job losses.

UniteLive spoke to Unite lead organiser Joe Rollin (pictured below), who hailed the turnout at the protest.

“We’re here to send a strong message to both the government and Tata Steel that they’re acting recklessly – that there’s no need to throw our members under the bus like this,” he explained.

Joe highlighted that the global demand for steel is in fact skyrocketing, and that Tata Steel has paid out nearly £2bn to shareholders over the last three years.

“It makes absolutely no sense to cut capacity at a time like this,” he said. “Tata has more than enough money to carry out a proper just transition for steelworkers so that they aren’t made to pay for this crisis.”

Joe went on to note that Tata Steel’s decisions will have huge knock-on effects beyond the thousands of jobs losses.

“We will now be the only country in the G20 that cannot produce its own virgin steel – and that’s an absolute crime,” he said. “We also have to remember that a thriving steel industry is absolutely vital for our national security.”

UniteLive also caught up with Unite Port Talbot steel rep Jason Wyatt (pictured below), who came to the demonstration to “fight for our livelihoods”.

“We’ve got no other choice but to be here and to keep up the fight,” he said.

Jason told UniteLive that Tata Steel’s recent announcement that it would be closing the blast furnaces was “absolutely devastating”.

“It was devastating for me, for my family and for my community”, but he insisted that he and other steelworkers would not give up.

“Unite research has shown that demand for steel is growing massively,” Jason noted. “The market is there. It’s now all about choices – if politicians make the right choices with the right level of support, businesses can then make the right choices to service that growing market.”

 Jason emphasised that the enormous pressure Unite is piling on both the government and Tata Steel is already making a clear difference.

“Our campaign has brought politicians to the table,” he explained. “As a direct result of Unite’s interventions, the Labour party has pledged £3bn in investment in the steel industry if they win the next election. Tata Steel is now saying that it would be open to further investment in the UK if the support is there – this on the back of our pressure.

“We need to keep that pressure up because it’s the only way we’re going to win. And win we will.”

Stay tuned on UniteLive for more coverage of Unite’s steel campaign. You can find out more about the campaign on our Fight for Steel webpage here. And you can watch the full select committee hearing on Parliament TV here.

By Hajera Blagg

Photos by Guy Smallman