Steelworkers to ban overtime in protest against job losses

Unite said around 1,500 of its members based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will take action from June 18. Credit: PA Images

Workers at steel giant Tata are to ban overtime as part of industrial action in protest at job losses.

Unite said around 1,500 of its members based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will take action from June 18.

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

Unions are opposed to the company’s plans to close blast both furnaces this year before switching to a greener form of production which needs fewer workers.

Unite warned that strike action will be held if the company does not row back on its plans.

A steel worker wearing a badge on his jacket outside the UK’s largest steel works in Port Talbot, South Wales Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata has miscalculated.

“Its workers know a better future is possible and they will be taking industrial action to fight for it, with Unite using every tool at its disposal to make the company change course.

“This hugely wealthy company knows UK steel capacity and jobs can be retained as the transition is made to green steel.

Tata’s disastrous deal with the current government would only see its other overseas operations take advantage of the coming boom in green steel at the expense of south Wales.”

Other unions are campaigning to save jobs at Port Talbot but have not announced any industrial action.

Tata says it has no option but to change the way steel is produced, adding that it has made generous redundancy offers to workers affected by its plans.

Unite regional secretary for Wales, Peter Hughes, said: “Tata’s attempts to bribe and then threaten its workforce from taking industrial action have failed.

"Our members will not stand quietly by and allow Tata to needlessly trash jobs and communities and commit serious harm to both the Welsh economy and national security.

"Unite is backing them to the hilt as they take industrial action to force Tata to stop its job cuts.”

Tata closed its coke ovens in Port Talbot in March due to what it described as "significantly deteriorating operational stability." Credit: Tata Steel UK

Tata steel has defended its support package, saying it includes an improvement to the number of average weeks of pay to 2.8 weeks for each year of service up to a maximum of 25 years, and confirmation that there will be no redundancies before September 2024.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “We are naturally disappointed that the Unite Union has decided to ask its members to take industrial action at Port Talbot and Llanwern.

“We have written to Unite Union twice during the ballot process, and again this week, to notify them of significant irregularities in the ballot process they have undertaken. We will continue to review and consider our legal next steps.

“On 22 March, we put forward a significantly enhanced, comprehensive package of support for employees impacted by the proposed transformation.

“Following further discussions with the multi-union UK Steel Committee, the company has put forward a further enhanced offer in good faith and in order to finalise discussions on the proposed Memorandum of Understanding covering our restructuring and transformation, forward aspirations for the business, and the employment support package arrangements."

The spokesperson added: “While the £1.25billion commitment with the UK Government will ensure a long-term viable future for low-CO2 steelmaking in the UK, our current business is unsustainable, today reporting losses of £364million in 2023/4 - more than £1million a day.

“By restructuring our UK operations we will be 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.

“Our ambition remains to move forward at pace with a just transition, and to become the centre of a future green sustainable industrial ecosystem in the UK.”

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