Hundreds of steelworkers protest in Port Talbot and Newport over Tata plans to axe 3,000 jobs

Steelworkers were joined by Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething. Credit: Community

Hundreds of steelworkers have marched through Port Talbot and Newport in protest of Tata Steel's decarbonisation plans, which could see almost 3,000 jobs axed.

It comes after the company announced plans to close two blast furnaces at the Port Talbot site in a move towards a greener method of steelmaking.

This method, although better for the climate, is less labour intensive and will therefore require less workers.

Unite and Community unions held demonstrations on Saturday after announcing on Friday that they would be balloting members for industrial action.

Unions have said they are "prepared to fight" Tata Steel's plans for a greener future. Credit: PA Images

Speaking at the rally in Port Talbot, Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss described Tata's plans as "disastrous".

"Today showed that Port Talbot, Newport and South Wales - steelworkers, politicians, local businesses and community groups - are united in opposing Tata's bad deal for steel.

"Make no mistake about it, what the company are proposing is bad for jobs, bad for our economy, bad for our environment and bad for national security.

"As the steelworkers' union, we'll do everything we can in our power to stand up against Tata and the UK Government's plan, including the last resort of industrial action as we set out yesterday."

The union is calling on Tata to look again at a multi-union plan, which it said is supported by industry experts, the Labour Party and Senedd members.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething told protestors that today's economy relies on steel. Credit: Community

Labour MP for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock and Welsh Government Economy Minister Vaughan Gething both addressed the rally in Port Talbot.

Alan Coombs, Chair of the Multi-Union Committee at Port Talbot steelworks, said: "Steelworkers at Port Talbot are proud of our industry, and we are proud of our community which has come out in such a strong show of support for us today.

"These are uncertain times, and many of us are anxious about what lies ahead for Port Talbot.

"One thing is certain though - steelworkers will fight tooth and nail for the future of our industry and our livelihoods."

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: "While our £1.25 billion commitment with the UK Government will ensure a long-term viable future for low CO2 steelmaking in the UK, our current business is unsustainable.

"Much of our existing iron and steelmaking operation in Port Talbot is at the end of its life, is unreliable and inefficient, and contributing to losses of £1.7million a day in the last quarter alone.

"Our restructuring proposals would mean that we are able to sustain the business as we transition to new electric arc furnace technology.

"We believe we have a very exciting future ahead, providing the high quality, low-CO2 steels that our customers in the UK and overseas are so desperate for.

"Furthermore, producing steel from scrap that already exists in significant quantities in the UK rather than importing iron ore and coal from across the world, will be the foundation for more resilient UK manufacturing supply chains.

"Following the announcement of the company's restructuring proposals on 19 January, we have started a formal information sharing and consultation process with our trades union colleagues, which will continue for at least 45 days.

"Our discussions are being held in an open, collaborative and constructive fashion and will cover the support to be provided for affected employees."

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