Tata Steel: Calls for UK Government to 'work more closely with Wales' on Port Talbot site

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales/ PA Images

The Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has reiterated calls for the Welsh and UK Governments to work together more closely to secure the future of steelmaking in Port Talbot.

Last week Tata Steel withdrew a planned announcement on the partial closure of the site -  which would result in thousands of job losses - as part of its plans to produce "greener" steel.

Unions told ITV Wales that the company was primed to announce its intention to close the heavy end at Port Talbot, including both blast furnaces by the end of March 2024.

This could have resulted in the loss of up to 3,000 jobs. The company employs around 4,000 people in Port Talbot, with thousands more contractors.

It prompted steelworkers to hold a demonstration in a bid to save the industry.

But Tata Steel said it was not in a position to make any formal announcements and is hoping to start consultations with employee representatives soon.

In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething stressed the importance of "meaningful consultation".

"Steel is the thread that will run through the economy of today and tomorrow," he said.

"It matters to growth, security, net zero and the UK's place in the world. Our longstanding commitment to the sector is based on these realities."

When asked what Welsh Government support would be put in place for the thousands of families who would be affected by job losses, Mr Gething said it would depend on what the final proposal is.

"What we are prepared to do, as we always have done, is to be supporters of the steel sector as both advocates and in practical terms as well.

"We have at various points helped with some investment to co-invest in smaller facilities, we've also been prepared to invest in the skills of people to transition to different ways of operating in the future.

"Where there are job losses we do have support available through our React+ programme for example.

"The challenge will be the scale of what might happen, when and how that crystallises, what happens in negotiations between trade unions and the company, and whether or not if there is an alternative proposal for the future, the UK Government as a key stakeholder is also prepared to invest in that.

"So all of those things need to happen before we can understand the scale of what Welsh Government might be required or desired."

Tata Steel is reported to be losing around £1 million a day.

The UK Government has promised to invest £500 million to support the company's move away from traditional blast furnaces and the introduction of an electric arc furnace.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We have a plan for steel and without our backing there was a risk of closing Port Talbot altogether.

"With this announced joint investment we will be safeguarding around 5,000 jobs, proving the doubters wrong and building a more sustainable future for the industry.

"While it's ultimately for Tata Steel to manage commercial decisions for the company's future, the UK Government is supporting staff affected by the transition and engaging with the Welsh government through a dedicated Transition Board to help affected employees and the local economy."

Consulting firm Syndex is currently working on a report outlining an alternative proposal for the future of the Port Talbot site, which will then be presented to the unions before going to the company.

The report is expected in the next couple of weeks, with any counter-proposals announced by the company then requiring further consultation with the unions.

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