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Steel merger deal 'will secure jobs and investment', union says

A worker walks past rolls of steel at Tata Steel's Wednesbury site in Wolverhampton. Credit: PA

A 50:50 merger deal between steel giants Tata and German firm Thyssenkrupp is set to secure jobs and lead to investment, a union boss has said.

The deal ends years of uncertainty over the future of plants including the Port Talbot works in South Wales.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said there will now be "significant" investment across Tata Steel's UK business.

"Steelworkers have fought hard to ensure the future of British steel-making. As part of this joint venture, we have secured significant investment across Tata Steel's UK business, including a repair of Port Talbot's blast furnace number five, which could see it produce steel until at least 2026," Mr Rickhuss said.

"With a commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies until October 2026, and the first £200 million of any operating profit being invested back in the business, this joint venture has the potential to safeguards jobs and steel-making for a generation."

"However, this joint venture will only succeed if the necessary strategic investments are made to allow the business to thrive," he added.

ThyssenKrupp and Tata Steel have signed a declaration of intent for a 50:50 joint venture in their European operations. Credit: PA

Tata Steel chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran said: "The joint venture will create a strong pan-European steel company that is structurally robust and competitive.

"This is a significant milestone for Tata Steel and we remain fully committed to the long-term interest of the joint venture company.

"We are confident that this company will create value for all stakeholders."

Dr Heinrich Hiesinger, chief executive of Thyssenkrupp, said : "We will create a highly competitive European steel player based on a strong industrial logic and strategic rationale.

"We will secure jobs and contribute to maintaining value chains in European core industries."

Steelworkers protest in Germany holding a sign reading: 'What is the future for steel?' Credit: PA

Although welcomed by British unions, thousands of steelworkers in Germany held a protest against the move when the deal was announced last year over potential job losses.

Both firms employ a total of 48,000 workers, with Tata owning UK plants including Port Talbot in South Wales, which employs 4,000 people.

When the memorandum was signed, Hans Fisher, chief executive of Tata Steel Europe, said there would be potential job losses of 2,000 split between the two companies, with those initially in sales and marketing.

Tata said it had made a specific commitment that its ambition is not to have any compulsory redundancies in the UK as a result of the joint venture.

A statement said: "We remain committed to developing our existing employees, and bringing in new talent to improve the capability of our UK workforce whose dedication, resourcefulness and energy is so valued."

The deal is thought to create the second largest steel maker in Europe. Credit: PA

Unite union national officer Tony Brady said: "Tata Steel's UK workforce is world-class and has worked tirelessly under a cloud of uncertainty to keep steel making alive in the UK.

"Those steelworkers have made great sacrifices in working to secure a future for Tata Steel.

"We will be seeking guarantees over jobs and investment for the UK operations of the joint venture to secure the future of UK steel. The UK plants desperately require a level playing field through investment and commitment to the long-term future of steel-making at Port Talbot."

The German-based company’s executive board approved the plans on Friday after signing a memorandum of understanding last September, and a binding contract is expected to be signed soon.

It has been reported the deal would create the second largest steel maker in Europe behind ArcelorMittal.