Steel shutdown threat as Port Talbot strikes loom

Tata Steel has threatened to pause steel-making at its site in Wales as worker walkouts loom.

The UK arm of the Indian corporation said it “may not have any choice” but to halt both of its traditional blast furnaces at its Port Talbot plant if strikes go ahead next month.

It warned that this could prove “extremely costly and disruptive throughout the supply chain”.

Trade union Unite said 1,500 workers would stay away from the plant from Monday 8 July in an escalating row over Tata’s restructuring plans.

Proposals unveiled in January would see both of Port Talbot’s high-emission blast furnaces closing by the end of this year, with 2,800 jobs lost as a result.

Tata said it would invest more than £1bn in electric-arc furnace technology to support more sustainable production of steel on the site.

The company said it would take “legal action” to challenge the ballot held by Unite.

A spokesperson added: “In the coming days, if we cannot be certain that we are able to continue to safely and stably operate our assets through the period of strike action, we will not have any choice but to pause or stop heavy end operations, including both blast furnaces, on the Port Talbot site.

“That is not a decision we would take lightly, and we recognise that it would prove extremely costly and disruptive throughout the supply chain, but the safety of people on or around our sites will always take priority over everything else.

“We understand the impact our restructuring will have on many employees and contractors, but we remain committed to a just transition and — pending a government-backed grant funding agreement — to the £1.25bn investment in low-CO2 steelmaking, which will ensure Tata Steel has a long and sustainable future in the UK.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said South Wales was “ideally placed to take advantage of the coming boom in green steel”.

She added: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs — they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Graham added that Tata’s warning about shutting its blast furnaces early was “the latest in a long line of threats that won’t deter us”.

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