Tata Steel: Unions vow to 'fight for Port Talbot' as they take their protests to Westminster

  • Peter Hughes from the Unite union was leading the protest on College Green in London.

Unions have taken their battle for the future of Port Talbot to the heart of Westminster, with a vocal demonstration vowing to fight for the town.

The Unite union has called for the UK Government to "up their investment" in the Tata Steelworks to keep open the two blast furnaces whilst a new electric arc furnace is built.

Its Welsh general secretary, Peter Hughes, said the government's investment to secure the plant's future goes "nowhere near enough".

"We've got to fight for our members, we have to fight for their livelihoods", he said.

The UK Government argues its investment has saved thousands of jobs.

David TC Davies, the Welsh Secretary, told ITV's Sharp End, "it with either a case of close the blast furnaces and leave or close the blast furnaces and build an arc furnace. There is no plan C".

The Unions say they put forward a multi-union plan which would've protected jobs. Credit: PA Images

If Tata Steel thought their announcement on Friday, 19 January, was the end of turbulence in Port Talbot, they were wrong.

The Indian conglomerate announced 2,800 positions will be lost at Port Talbot as it transitions to a new, greener form of steel production, aided by £500m from the UK Government. 

Tata says a 45-day consultation will get underway as part of its plan to "transform and restructure its UK business".

However, unions have vowed to battle Tata's plans to ensure that steelworkers' jobs will be protected.

They took their protest to Westminster on Tuesday, 23 January, demanding the UK Government invest more in the plant to save jobs.

Unite's Welsh general secretary said he thought the £500 million doesn't come close to matching investment in other countries.

Peter Hughes said, "Countries in the G7 and G20 are actually giving a lot more to their industries than the UK Government are.

"£500 million for two and a half redundancies is ridiculous. We do need an electric arc furnace, we do need to move that forward, but there can be no reason why that can't be run alongside the blast furnaces already there", he continued.

In November a multi-union plan, devised by the Unite, Community and GMB unions, was released to save more than 2,300 jobs at Tata.

The plan would have seen the two existing blast furnaces stay open, whilst a new electric arc furnace is built.

Mr Hughes says more investment from the UK Government means the blast furnaces could stay open. "More money would let you do the infrastructure right, you'd be able to run the electric arc furnace and the blast furnace and making sure that we have a future.

"We have to fight for Port Talbot, and Unite will fight for that", he said.

The Welsh Secretary, David TC Davies, told Sharp End there is no other plan to save jobs in Port Talbot.

The Secretary for State said it is "fantasy politics" to think there is another option to save jobs at the Tata Plant.

He added, "I am very anxious there isn't anything to discourage Tata from [...] putting in £750 million."

David TC Davies insisted that Tata would not receive the investment from the UK Government until they have built the electric arc furnace in Port Talbot.

Tata Steel says it is committed to building the new furnace. It has pledged a further £130 million to support workers to protect the futures of steelworkers in Port Talbot.

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