Tata: Unite ballots for industrial action amid threat of job losses at Port Talbot

Credit: PA Images

Members of the Unite union will be balloted for industrial action over Tata Steel’s plans to close both blast furnaces at its Port Talbot site, which could result in up to 3,000 job losses.

The union will be balloting around 1,500 workers at its Port Talbot and Llanwern sites between 8 March and 11 April. If workers vote in favour, Unite says industrial action could begin before the end of April.

Calling it a "devastating blow to Port Talbot and and Llanwern," Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "This will spread destruction across the Welsh economy and risk national security.

"Unite will combat Tata’s plan with everything we have, including our multi-million pound strike fund. Now is the time for the steelworkers of Port Talbot and Llanwern to fight for their communities and vote yes to industrial action."

Unions have even taken their battle for the future of Port Talbot to the heart of Westminster in January this year. Credit: PA Images

Another union, Community, which represents more steelworkers than any other, has also reached a decision to let members vote on strikes.

No ballot timetable has been announced as Community representatives say they have not yet exhausted every other avenue.

Alun Davies, Community's National Officer for Steel said if industrial action goes ahead, it could involve all Tata Steel UK plants.

“This would be a national dispute and Community will ballot all members on a site-by-site basis including the downstream plants.

“At this point we remain in national consultations and the company has not responded to our revised version of the Multi-Union Plan, which our experts continue to develop.

“Therefore at this time Community is not confirming an industrial action ballot timetable, and this would be premature as we have not yet exhausted the procedures.”

A 45 day consultation is underway as part of Tata's plan to "transform and restructure its UK business". Credit: PA Images

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.

A consultation process, which was expected to last for at least 45 days, began on 19 January.

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