• Thursday, July 25, 2024

Business

Tata Steel workers suspend strike, cite talks with officials

Around 1,500 workers, who had already begun an overtime ban on June 17, were also due to start an indefinite strike from July 8.

Tata Steel’s plant at Port Talbot, Wales.(Photo: Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

A PROPOSED strike next week at Tata Steel UK’s Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales has been called off, unions said on Monday (1), citing a resumption of talks with management.

As a result, the owner of the steelworks, Tata Steel, has cancelled plans to begin shutting down both of the plant’s blast furnaces this week. However, cutbacks expected to cost 2,800 jobs will still go ahead later this year, reported The Guardian.

Tata Steel said it had received written confirmation that industrial action would not go ahead.

Earlier, the Unite trade union had announced that Tata staff would begin an indefinite strike from July 8 in protest over the job-slashing plans.

Britain’s main opposition Labour party, widely expected to beat the governing Tories in a general election on July 4, had urged Tata to avert the strike.

“Unite… has confirmed that its current industrial action at Tata in South Wales has been paused,” the union said in a statement.

“The decision follows confirmation from Tata, arising from high-level talks throughout the weekend, that it was now prepared to enter into negotiations about future investment for its operations and not just redundancies, in South Wales, including at Port Talbot.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham hailed a “breakthrough” over the matter.

“This is a significant development in the battle to protect jobs and the long-term future of steel making in South Wales. Investment from Labour secured by Unite will be key to the future of the site.

“This breakthrough would not have come about without the courage of our members at Port Talbot who were prepared to stand up and fight for their jobs.

“Workers were simply not prepared to stand idly by while steel making ended and their communities were laid to waste.”

A spokesperson for Tata Steel said, “Given we can now be confident of ensuring appropriate resourcing of activities to operate safely, we will halt preparations for the early cessation of operations on blast furnace 4 and the wider heavy end in Port Talbot, planned for this week. We welcome the fact that we have avoided having to progress down this path.

“The resumption of discussions with the UK Steel Committee [which represents the Community, Unite and the GMB unions] will progress from the position reached in the last meeting of 22 May and will focus on the future investments and aspirations for the business, and not on a renegotiation of our existing plan for the heavy-end closure or the enhanced employment support terms.

“The wind-down process for blast furnace 5 has now begun to plan and we expect to produce the final iron at the end of this week.”

The ovens, which had initially been planned to shutter from July, are used to turn coal into coke, a key raw material used in the steel-making process.

Tata had revealed in January that it was planning to shut the coke ovens and two high-emission blast furnaces in Port Talbot, leading to the loss of up to 2,800 jobs.

The overhaul comes with the European steel industry facing upheaval as it tries to finance less carbon-intensive production.

Tata is seeking to invest £1.25 billion, including £500 million in UK government cash, into electric arc furnace technology to try to cut long-term carbon emissions.

The new electric furnace is not due to come onstream until 2027 and unions want steelmaking to continue until then.

(with inputs from AFP)

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