Rally held to show support for Tata steelworkers on eve of industrial action

  • ITV Wales' Gwennan Campbell spoke to Jason Wyatt, who is one of the striking workers in Port Talbot

A rally has been held in Port Talbot to show support for steelworkers who begin industrial action tomorrow (18 June).

Workers at steel giant Tata are to ban overtime and follow 'working to rule' which means refusing to work longer than contracted hours, as part of industrial action in protest at job losses.

They are opposing the closure of the blast furnaces which would mean the loss of nearly three thousand jobs.

Tata Steel say they've offered workers the most 'generous' support package in their history and challenged the legality of the ballot process.

Jason Wyatt, who is one of the striking workers, said these workers are 'fighting for our communities'.

He said: " It's the eve of our industrial action for tomorrow. So, basically as a steel industry we haven't taken any industrial action for 40 years and this fight is big and Tata's proposals are damaging to our work, to our livelihood and we see it necessary to fight and fight all the way."

Steelworkers at steel giant Tata are to ban overtime as part of industrial action in protest at job losses. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Labour have called for the closures to be delayed until after the general election so new talks can be held if Labour win.

The Welsh Conservatives say the UK government has provided £500 million to Tata and is supporting a transition fund.

Plaid Cymru say Wales' economy is being held back by Westminster.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Tata’s workers are taking this industrial action because they know the company’s claim that jobs cannot be retained in South Wales during the transition to green steel is a lie.

"They are standing up and fighting for a better future, one in which Tata’s British business can take full advantage of the coming green steel boom and not be sacrificed to benefit its operations abroad.

“The current government have backed Tata’s disastrous deal for Britain without even getting any job guarantees. But in less than a month, Tata will almost certainly be dealing with a new political reality. Labour has told Tata to wait for the £3 billion steel investment fund, a commitment secured by Unite. That is what it must do. Unite will use every weapon in its armoury to ensure that it does."

Unite said around 1,500 of its members based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will take action from 18 June Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: "Of the 4500 Tata Steel UK employees in Port Talbot and Llanwern, 1366 Unite members were balloted, 857 voted and of those 468 members voted for industrial action including strike action.

“We have challenged the legality of their ballot process on multiple occasions and our position is that their industrial action is unlawful.

“Furthermore, through extensive negotiations with unions the company twice substantially improved our support offering for affected employees - the most generous package in our history - we would have expected Unite to put this offer to their members.

“Having now received notice of Unite’s industrial action, we have regrettably reverted our employee support package to closer to our standard terms.

“We have written to our workforce to make sure that any employee subject to Unite’s notice and considering taking part in any industrial action is fully aware and understands that their contract of employment, associated collective agreements, and job description, as well as terms implied by established custom and practice and/or by law, may require them to work additional hours and continue to support and cover activities as outlined in Unite’s notices of industrial action.

“The company’s request remains unchanged: for the notice of industrial action to be withdrawn and for discussions to progress with all Trades Unions to finalise the details of the Memorandum of Understanding."

Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales where workers are facing huge job losses. Credit: PA Images

A spokesperson for the Conservatives said:“The deal the Conservative government agreed with Tata will preserve thousands of jobs at Port Talbot and in the wider steel supply chain across Wales.

“It is sad that, goaded on by their union paymasters, the Labour Party are threatening to rip up this deal, which Tata have themselves said puts the future of the steelworks and tens of thousands of steel jobs at ‘significant risk’.

“Only the Conservatives have a clear plan for our steel industry that saves jobs, ensures the UK retains critical steel-making capability, and delivers a more secure future for our country.”

A Welsh Labour spokesperson said: “The steel industry is a vital cornerstone of our economy and the lifeblood of communities across Wales. We remain steadfast in our support of Tata’s skilled and loyal workforce.

“The Tories have effectively forked out £500m of taxpayers’ cash for the loss of up to 3,000 jobs at Tata. Working in lockstep with the Welsh Labour Government, the next UK Labour government will invest £2.5bn in the UK steel industry over five years to ensure the transition to green steel comes with jobs in Wales.”

Luke Fletcher MS, Plaid Cymru’s economy and energy spokesperson, had earlier said: "Tata has made clear that whatever happens in the General Election it is determined to continue with the closure of the furnace at Port Talbot.

"At this point, if we are serious about saving the jobs at Port Talbot and secure the blast furnaces, there is now only one option. Nationalisation.

"Labour have committed to £3billion for steel. A portion of that will be allocated for Port Talbot. If the money is there to give to Tata, then it’s there for us to take control of the future of our steel industry here in Wales.

"If the polls are to be believed, it’s now on Labour to put its money where its mouth is and save our steel."

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