'It's always been a job for life' Port Talbot steelworker vows community will fight for steel jobs

  • Video report by Gwennan Campbell

A Port Talbot steelworker has told ITV Wales that his community is prepared to fight to keep steel jobs in the town.

It comes as Tata Steel announced last month that it will axe nearly 3,000 jobs in the coming years – the majority of which are expected to be at its Port Talbot plant.Local resident and steelworker Dale Fischer said: "There's still a bit of a flame flickering for me to be honest. Until they close the gate on us, I'm not going to accept it."

Hundreds of ‘Steel Not For Sale’ signs in the style of estate agent boards were put on display in gardens across UK. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

He continued: "I'm not naive to think there isn't going to be a fight needed. But for me, Port Talbot won't end with the steelworks going down.

"I think it'll still be going, and it'll be a fight from the residents and the community and the out-of-towns."

It comes as Unite the Union launched a UK-wide campaign for the future of the UK steel industry on Thursday.

Hundreds of ‘Steel Not For Sale’ signs in the style of estate agent boards were put on display in gardens across Port Talbot, as well as across Sheffield, Teesside and Scunthorpe.

The steel giant announced in January that it plans to close Port Talbot's two blast furnaces in a move towards a greener method of steelmaking.

Speaking to ITV Wales on the day of the announcement, the boss of Tata Steel T. V. Narendran said he is "100% committed" to building an electric arc furnace at the Port Talbot site. 

This means the site would no longer make steel from scratch, but would recycle scrap metal instead.However, this method of steel production is less labour-intensive, meaning far fewer workers would be needed.

The Tata Steel CEO also acknowledged the announcement to "not press ahead" with the Union's alternative plan to save jobs would be "disappointing", but said continuing in the same vein was “no longer an option”.

  • ITV Wales' Gwennan Campbell spoke to Helen and Dale Fischer

Dale's wife Helen, who also works at Tata steel in Port Talbot, said it has been a "worrying" time for the family.

She said: "It's always been a job for life." "My parents are in their mid-seventies now and they've worked all their lives there, and I think they kind of thought it was going to be the same for us as a family, that you'd have that security, that local job."

Meanwhile, another Port Talbot resident branded Tata's decision as "an attack on our community".

Jody O’Brien said: Tata need to rethink its decision to cut these jobs and think about the wider impact on the people of Port Talbot."

2,500 jobs in Port Talbot are set to be axed in the next 18 months, with a further 300 under threat in the next three years. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite has secured a commitment from Labour that it will invest £3 billion in UK steel and provide serious investment in Port Talbot.

"The current government must act in the national interest and provide similar guarantees to save jobs and maintain capacity at Port Talbot to allow for the industry’s future growth.

“Tata must also listen to Labour’s call not to make any ‘irreversible decisions’ until after the general election later this year.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult our recent announcement is for our workers and our steel communities.

"To end losses of £1million a day and secure the green future of steelmaking in Port Talbot, we are investing £1.25bn in new electric arc furnace technology - as steelmakers across Europe are doing.

Unions have taken their battle for the future of Port Talbot to the heart of Westminster. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

"We believe that scrap-based steelmaking is the right solution for our business in the UK – a country which is currently the second largest exporter of used steel in the world, and one in which renewable energy is developing quickly.”

A UK Government source said that “TATA has been clear that both of its blast furnaces - one is at the end of life and the other is financially unviable - are to be closed.

“Everyone wants to preserve as many jobs as possible. That’s why the UK Government has provided half a billion pounds in funding to maintain steel production in South Wales.

“TATA has been unequivocal from the start that it’s this deal or the closure of the entire Port Talbot site.”

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…