First Minister Vaughan Gething travels to Mumbai for talks with Tata bosses over Welsh job losses

First Minister Vaughan Gething - PA Images
First Minister Vaughan Gething has travelled to India for talks with Tata bosses Credit: PA Images

First Minister Vaughan Gething has said he’s had a “candid and constructive” meeting with Tata bosses in Mumbai where he has urged them to change their approach to job losses in Port Talbot.

But Mr Gething’s visit has been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives who said he should “stop globetrotting” and step up financial support for the steel company’s transition to greener ways of working.

Last month Tata announced it would proceed with its plans to close its two blast furnaces at Port Talbot, to be replaced in the coming years with an electric arc furnace.

Tata says its current business is "unsustainable" and that it’s losing more than £1million a day.

Their new plan would require fewer workers; Tata’s plans are estimated to lead to around 2,500 direct job losses as well as affecting around 10,000 people across the region, within the supply chain and reliant businesses.

Vaughan Gething in Mumbai meeting with Tata bosses Credit: Welsh Government

Mr Gething said the meeting was “candid and constructive” and that he reiterated the Welsh Government’s position “that we don't want to see any irreversible change made this side of a general election that is imminent.

“I pointed out but I'd spoken to Kier Starmer before I flew out to Mumbai, reiterating the position that the likely next UK Labour Government has not just a commitment to a green steel fund with significant capital investment support but also a manifesto that is likely to require more steel in the UK, not less so the market here is likely to change."

He added: "I pointed out also that a longer timeframe would allow us to better support workers. I expressed my desire, in clear and plain terms, to have more information available to the Welsh Government on the workforce who are likely to be affected by their proposals.”

Tata Steel has said it is sticking with its plans and formally ended its consultation on those plans at the end of April.

Workers outside Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks last year. Credit: PA Images

Asked if his trip to India was nothing more than “gesture politics,” Mr Gething said: “I’ve been in this room for more than two and a half hours having direct talks with the senior leadership of Tata in Mumbai.

“I think that matters and I don't think you get that level of direct interaction in a telephone call. If you're a worker, and you wonder whether the Welsh Government is on your side, how could I possibly be sat at home not taking the opportunity to come here at short notice to meet the senior leadership team of Tata?

“This is about doing the right thing for Welsh workers, which is exactly what I'm doing, exactly what any first minister of any party should do.”

Tata’s decision is at the centre of a fierce political row, heightened by the fact that this is an election year.

The Labour Welsh Government has aligned itself with union calls for a fairer, more gradual transition to greener steel production which lessens the blow in terms of redundancies.

But the Conservative UK Government says that’s giving workers false hope, that Tata was considering closing the entire steelworks and that its intervention has saved thousands of jobs.

Steelworkers from the Unite Union took their fight against steel job cuts to Westminster earlier this year. Credit: PA Images

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This government is supporting the steel industry more than any before it and has put in place one of the biggest support packages in history, with a £500million grant as part of the £1.25billion commitment by Tata Steel to secure 5,000 jobs and safeguard the future of the Welsh steel industry.”

UK Government ministers have privately and publicly criticised the Welsh Government for not stumping up any cash to help ease the transition.

That’s because the plan was drawn up without their involvement, ministers in Cardiff have said in return.

But that hasn’t stopped Conservatives saying the Welsh Government hasn’t provided any financial support to secure the future of the steel industry.

Something echoed by the Conservatives’ Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, who said: “While the UK Government has put over half a billion pounds on the table to save steel jobs in Port Talbot, the only cash the Labour Welsh Government has spent is on this trip to India.

“Vaughan Gething should stop globetrotting to divert from his domestic problems and measure his support for our steelworkers in pounds and pence.”

In turn, Labour politicians and union leaders have strongly criticised the UK Government’s deal with Tata, saying that it settled for less than a future Labour government would seek to achieve.

The Labour MS for Bridgend, Sarah Murphy, wrote on X: “While the PM continues to ignore our steel communities, our First Minister Vaughan Gething is in Mumbai repeating his call for Tata to make no compulsory redundancies and press the case for long-term investment. Welsh Labour and our unions are fighting for Wales and UK Steel.”

Plaid Cymru’s economy spokesperson Luke Fletcher said: "I truly hope the first minister's visit yields a positive result for workers in Tata Steel.

“Plaid Cymru have long called for nationalisation to be seriously considered by the UK Government, and to be pushed for by the Welsh Government. Now is the time to act. We cannot be bystanders in our own nation's future."

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