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Steel – fight for Port Talbot jobs

30 May 2024

Port Talbot steel works. The plant is under threat from high energy costs and net zero policy as well as its owner's plans. Photo Chris Goddard / Shutterstock.

Members of the largest steel workers’ union Community have voted to take industrial action in protest at planned job losses at Tata Steel UK.

Community said more than 85 per cent of its 3,000 members backed industrial action. Unions – Unite and GMB as well as Community – are campaigning against plans by Tata to change production at its site in Port Talbot, south Wales, to a different method of steelmaking using an electric arc furnace.

Better deal

Community national officer Alun Davies said, “…our members delivered their verdict on Tata Steel’s job cuts plan, and they have voted to demand a better deal for the workforce.

He continued, “It should be noted this resounding mandate has been delivered in spite of the company’s bullying and unacceptable threats to slash redundancy payments.

“We will now be consulting our members on next steps, and we urge Tata to reconsider their position and get back around the table to head off a major industrial dispute.”


Members of Unite have also voted to strike, and GMB has also balloted for action. The unions have previously discussed coordinating industrial action if their memberships supported the move. They do not accept the company’s claims about the finances of its UK operations.

The company last month rejected union proposals to keep open one blast furnace, describing the plan as having “high inherent operational and safety risk”. Such risks do not, however, stop Tata continuing to operate blast furnaces in India.


Unions have criticised the present government’s approach to Tata. Both Unite and GMB have called on a prospective Labour government to support the future of this vital industry. GMB said that the current situation was “state sponsored decimation”.

Tata plans to close both blast furnaces in Port Talbot by the end of September this year. The planned electric arc furnace will not begin construction until August 2025.

More jobs are threatened at Liberty Steel. The company began consulting in May to mothball one of its plants at Scunthorpe with the loss of 120 jobs. The company cites high energy costs as one factor in its decision. And it’s likely that the blast furnaces in Scunthorpe will be replaced with electric arc furnaces, with more job losses, further reducing Britain’s steel producing capability.