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Wales first minister meets Tata Steel officials in India over Port Talbot jobs

Vaughan Gething expressed hope after the meeting with top officials including Tata Steel CEO T V Narendran that the Indian steel major would an approach that would help the workers at the Welsh plant.

Welsh first minister Vaughan Gething (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

VAUGHAN GETHING, the first minister of Wales, on Friday (10) said he had a “candid meeting” with top representatives of India’s Tata Steel on the contentious issue of expected loss of jobs at its Port Talbot plant in South Wales, in the western Indian city of Mumbai.

The minister, who took over the office in March, also expressed hope that the Indian steel major, which has a “positive reputation”, would take an approach that would help workers at the Welsh plant.

Gething was on a visit to India as part of a trade mission. His meeting with the Tata officials, among whom was the CEO and managing director of Tata Steel, T V Narendran, came just over a week after the latter was in London for talks with steel unions.

In a tweet about the meeting, Gething said, “I repeated our call for no compulsory redundancies and pressed the case for long term investment.

Read: Wales first minister to urge Tata not to shut blast furnaces

“Talented workers in Wales make quality steel. Their work is good for growth and good for security. It must be protected.”

His trip to India, however, came under criticism back home. Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said it only showed that Gething’s “globetrotting” was aimed at diverting the crisis within his government, Wales Online reported.

Read: Vaughan Gething becomes first black leader of Wales

“The cost of his plane ticket to India is the only cash the first minister has put on the table for steel jobs, all for a meeting that could have been held in London,” he was quoted as saying.

Last month, Tata Steel announced to proceed ahead with its plans to close down the two furnaces at the plant and replace them with electric furnaces as part of its plans to go green in steel manufacturing.

The proposed move could affect some 2,500 jobs in the next 18 months. But trade unions have opposed the move, and some 1,500 workers have reportedly voted in favour of an industrial action.

Speaking to reporters in Mumbai after the meeting, Gething said, “…Today was a candid meeting, and I’m looking forward to what I expect will be a further conversation between the company (Tata Steel) and trade unions over the coming few days as well.

“…Tata group has a positive reputation …as it looks to care for its workforce, I’m hoping that the same approach will be taken for Welsh workers as well. Who are a loyal and skilled workforce.

“…obviously one of the biggest issues is the future of the workplace. You know, I’ve got thousands of people. I am responsible for our employees.”

Tata Steel, in a statement, said it had a productive discussion with the first minister of Wales about progressing our plans to secure the future of steelmaking in South Wales.

Narendran said the company’s position remains that it is committed to the green transition of the UK steel industry and its electric arc furnace at Port Talbot.

Gething said he is expecting that there will be another round of talks between Tata and the trade unions in Port Talbot.

He added that while he is not part of the negotiations between the company and the trade unions, “obviously the outcome of their negotiations is a key issue for me and what my government is enabled to do, to support the company and indeed the workers as well”.

“I would like to see a future where Tatas continue to invest in the steel sector in Wales and the thousands of loyal and highly skilled workers who are there,” Gething added.

The first minister’s visit to India was aimed at deepening ties with the country.

“We understand the difficulties that our people are facing and are doing our utmost to provide holistic support, including mental health. We are offering the most generous financial support package ever offered to outgoing employees. Additionally, we are committed to providing support with job searches, training, and upskilling activities, and we have committed 20 million pound to the Transition Board,” Narendran said.

Tata Steel said it has always been a responsible, long-term, and patient investor in its UK business and is committing significant additional capital to ensure that it can create an operationally, financially, and environmentally sustainable business for the future.

(With PTI inputs)

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