First Minister to urge Tata to ‘look again’ at furnace plan on India visit

Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks in South Wales Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The First Minister will visit India next week to push for Tata Steel to “look again” at its plans to shut blast furnaces which could cost thousands of jobs.

Last week, Tata Steel confirmed it is shutting its furnaces in Port Talbot after rejecting a last-minute union plea to change its plans.

Vaughan Gething has announced his intention to visit Mumbai to ask the company to reconsider the future of steel production in Wales.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with Vaughan Gething Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Following seven months of discussions with unions, Tata revealed last Thursday it is proceeding with its £1.25 billion investment in an electric arc furnace on the Port Talbot site and will close the two blast furnaces by the end of June and end of September respectively.

The move is expected to see 2,800 jobs lost, the majority at its site in Port Talbot.

While unions and politicians have criticised the decision, Tata has said it is planning the biggest investment in the steel industry for decades, safeguarding the industry and preserving 5,000 jobs.

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Gething said: “Next week, I plan to go to Mumbai to meet Tata to press the case again not just for the alternative, but a clear case that we have continued to make and will continue to make for there to be no hard compulsory redundancies, and to look again at the opportunities for steel within Wales and Britain, and what it will mean not just for our renewable future, but the general future of our economy.”

The First Minister added that the company’s plans could have an indirect impact on more than 10,000 people.

Jeremy Miles, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Energy, also made a statement to the Senedd in which he said it was “extremely disappointing” that Tata had not taken up proposals for a transition to lower carbon steelmaking.

The plan, developed by unions, would have seen one blast furnace maintained through the transition.

The company has said this would have incurred at least £1.6 billion of additional costs.

Jeremy Miles resigned as economy secretary on Tuesday morning Credit: David Mirzoeff/PA

Mr Miles said: “It is essential that the company now does all it can to avoid compulsory redundancies within its loyal workforce and works with the Transition Board to ensure the affected employees receive the appropriate help and guidance to reskill or seek employment.”

He called on Tata to provide details and timing for the impact on its workforce to ensure the Welsh Government could provide support, including skills and training to find new employment.

Mr Miles added: “We will also urge Tata to give their workers and supply chain, wherever feasible, the opportunity to work on the decommissioning and construction phase required to move to electric arc steelmaking.

“Preparatory work begins in December this year and could therefore offer continuity of employment for some workers.”

Tata Steel’s chief executive and managing director T V Narendran said last week that the company’s plans were the “most viable proposal” and would secure the long-term future of the business, while preserving “the majority of jobs in the UK”.

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