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Port Talbot steelwork closure outrage

 Take Away The Furance, but Anger Still Burns Hot

The Port Talbot Seelworks owner, Tata Steel, an Indian owned company, is planning to downsize its workforce signicanctly with the replacement of their coal burning furnaces to electic powered eco friendly burners. The decision has put thousands of jobs at risk and thrwatens further economic disparity and poverty on the township. 

Port Talbot is a town founded on steelworks, since the towns foundation in 1901 a steelworks has always been present. It has been a large part of the reason that Wales has made any economic wealth, with the steelwork being the largest plant in Europe at one point. For generations the works have provided economic prosperity to the Port. This begun to change in the late 1960’s when the steelworks fell into private ownership , trading many hands until it was aqquired by Tata in 2007. 

Port Talbots steelworks produce around 4.5 million tonnes of steal each year and, according to reseach done by Cardiff University, ‘the total economic impact of Tata was £3.2 billion in Wales per year.'

Tata has recently made the decision to transfer from the traditional coal powered fire-blast furances to electric arc furances which are said to produce less greenhouse gas emission. Tata has stated this lessoning of Carbon emission to be the main reason for the change, and has even managed to secure half a billion pounds in investment from the UK government for the overhall;

“This plan is intended to reverse more than a decade of losses and transition from the legacy blast furnaces to a more sustainable, green steel business.”


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated his upmost support for the decision to finance the overhaul, stating his government had saved five-thousand ob. Sunak also insisted there would be protections in place to ensure workers at the steel works would be able to transfer into other jobs. 

Sunak was recently challenged on his support by Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion. Champion, whose constituents also rely on steel-works for employment, stated that neither she nor her constituents desired to see the UK government spend money on making workers redundant. 

Sunak responded with this statement – “I know this is an anxious time for steelworkers in South Wales, but we are committed to working with the steel sector to secure a positive and sustainable future.”

Tata, whose website has this on their main page – ‘‘World leaders in sustainable steel. Innovating for tomorrow, making a positive impact today’ – in agreement with the Prime minister issued a statement promising to offer ‘comprehensive support packages’ to help workers ‘train and find new jobs’. Tata has not mentioned how, given its efforts to combat carbon emissions, it has built a new industrial complex in East India which will produce over twice as much carbon emissions as the Port Talbot steelworks. This will be the largest complex under the Tata banner of ownership, and cheaper to run as workers in Inida don’t have the same guaranteed minimum wage as those employed in the UK. 

Those same UK workers are not allowing the company to close the steelwork easily. Unite the Unions has issued its full backing to see the protection of the workers whose jobs are at risk. Unite attempted to negotiate with the company to no avail as Tata rejected any plans which would see further delays to the overhauling of Port Talbots steel works. 

Not at all deterred, Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham promised a strong show of force in response to these actions; 

“Unite has over one and a half thousand members at Port Talbot. We are the biggest private sector union in Britain and we are ready to use everything in our armoury including industrial action – backed by our £30 million strike fund – and political leverage to fight for this outcome for Port Talbot.”

The Welsh Government has actually decided to back the unions over Westminster, having urged Sunak’s government to produce a fair transitional agreement for the Port Talbot Workers. Along with Unite, the Welsh Government has promised the issue is far from closed and done and that both they and the unions will do all they can to minimise job losses and prevent economic fallbacks. 

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