Tata Steel: Staff 'panicking' over potential job losses as Port Talbot plant moves to greener steel

  • Tony Davies says the move to greener steel could be the "light at the end of the tunnel" but it needs to come with investment.

A member of staff at Tata Steel's plant in Port Talbot has told ITV Wales his colleagues are "panicking" over plans to move to producing greener steel.

On Friday, it was confirmed the deal is intended to secure the survival of the plant which employs half of Tata Steel’s 8,000-strong UK workforce as the company moves to less carbon-intensive steelmaking.

The subsidy, alongside a £700m investment from the Indian company into the operations, is likely to see around 3,000 jobs go at the site.

The UK Government has agreed to invest £500m of public money to secure the future of Tata Steel in Port Talbot, but thousands of jobs are still at risk.

Workers protest outside the Port Talbot steelworks when the risk to jobs were announced in September Credit: PA

Tony Davies has worked at the plant for 31 years but says some of his colleagues who have joined in the last year are worried about the future of their livelihoods.

He told ITV Wales: "Port Talbot town was built a around Port Talbot steelworks. If we lose [the steelworks] then we're destroying the community".

"The only impact [making greener steel] has on us is the price. We can't just open a pot of money. We've got to have help with that.

"The government wants it put in. We want it put in. We want to be greener. We want it for our kids' health. But we need help to get us there.

"Unfortunately for me, I have to got to plant and give [my colleagues] an explanation without stressing them and putting their mental health at risk.

"These youngsters are all panicking. Some of these boys have only been here eight months and they're now panicking."

Workers outside Tata Steel’s Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Unions strongly criticised the plans which they claim are "short sighted and lack ambition".

In a statement on Friday, the UK Government said its grant was "one of the largest government support packages in history – in a new Electric Arc Furnace for greener steel production at Port Talbot, which is currently the UK’s largest single carbon emitter."

"This would replace the existing coal-powered blast furnaces – which are nearing the end of their effective life – and reduce the UK’s entire carbon emissions by around 1.5 percent as a result."

On Thursday, Vaughan Gething called on the UK's Business Secretary to engage in a "regular formal dialogue on this matter". Credit: PA Images

Yesterday the Welsh Government's Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said there had been no discussions with him about the deal.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with Tata for many years to safeguard the long-term future of steel production in Wales and have urged the UK Government to provide the investment needed to support the move to greener methods of steel production.

“This is a very worrying time for the whole community and it is essential Tata now has a meaningful consultation with employees and their trades unions about these proposals.

“While today’s announcement contains significant investment for the longer term, it is inevitable that Tata employees, and their families, are focused on the impact it will have on jobs in Port Talbot and Tata’s downstream facilities.

“We now need to consider the announcement and proposed timeline in detail. Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely with the trades unions and the company and do everything we can to minimise job losses.”

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