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Almost 3,000 jobs to be cut as UK’s largest steelworks goes green

The steelworks in Port Talbot, south Wales.
The steelworks in Port Talbot, south Wales. Copyright Canva.
Copyright Canva.
By Eleanor Butler
Published on
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Indian-owned firm Tata Steel plans to close both of its blast coal powered furnaces in south Wales to focus on more eco-friendly production.

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Tata Steel is set to cut 2,800 jobs and close its furnaces in Port Talbot, south Wales, the firm announced on Friday morning.

Most of the job losses are expected to be in Port Talbot but details are still unconfirmed.

There are currently 4,000 employees working for Tata Steel in Port Talbot, out of the 8,000 individuals the firm employs in the UK.

The news "will be devastating for steelworkers and communities in Wales," said the country's First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The decision to close both of the Welsh furnaces means the UK is on track to become the only major economy unable to make steel from scratch.

As part of its plans to decarbonise, Tata Steel is seeking to replace its coal furnaces in south Wales with a greener electric arc furnace, which will require fewer staff.

Job losses are expected to be phased and some hope a few hundred jobs could be saved in the transition period.

The first redundancies are planned for mid-2024, with another batch scheduled for later in the year.

About 2,500 jobs will be lost in the next 18 months.

Unions are meeting with bosses of Tata Steel today, but original suggestions to limit job losses have proven unsuccessful.

One rejected proposal recommended keeping a single blast furnace running during the transition period.

Last year, Tata Steel warned that its UK operations were unsustainable unless the government provided funding to support its green transition.

A view of Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales, Sept. 15, 2023.
A view of Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales, Sept. 15, 2023.Ben Birchall/AP

The ruling Conservative party has contributed £500 million (€582 million) to the £1.25 billion project, but it is now facing criticism for not doing more to protect jobs.

"The government now needs to step in and step up," said Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, as reported in The Times.

"This is the time to defend British workers and communities, as well as our industrial base and our national security."

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The opposition shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, wrote on X: "The Conservative Government has pushed a plan that uses millions of taxpayers’ money only to make thousands of people redundant and leaves us unable to produce primary steel in the UK."

"What the Government offered was never a serious plan for the long term for our steel industry."

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed his government is "absolutely committed to steelmaking in the UK", and claimed that the alternative to planned job losses is a complete closure of the plant.

Tata is promising a £130 million support package for employees affected by the transformation, offering redundancy terms, community schemes, skills training and job-seeking initiatives.

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