AMs Seek Clarification on the Future of Welsh Steel

Yesterday, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM, made a statement in the Senedd relating to Tata Steel following his visit to Mumbai at the end of May. Since 19th March, the future of the steel industry in Port Talbot and South Wales has had a cloud over it, as the process of selling Tata Steel UK is being played out. To date, no decision has been made on a preferred buyer or even whether Tata has reversed its decision to sell, as has been strongly rumoured within the workforce.

In his statement, the First Minister said: “Members know that I went to Mumbai a couple of weeks ago to continue my dialogue with Tata about the sales process. Throughout this process my primary concern has been for the Tata workforce, the steel communities and the need to secure a long-term and sustainable steel industry for the whole Tata operation in Wales. This is the case I have pressed consistently and directly with Tata’s senior leaders.”

“Tata’s position remains that its priority is to conduct a sales process that secures a positive outcome. Tata is now in the process of evaluating the offers it has received. Whatever decision is reached by Tata, we stand ready to support any bidders going through to the next stage which will see jobs and sustainable steel production remain in Wales. ”

“In the meantime, the work of our Tata Steel Task Force continues – it held its most recent meeting on 9 May.  Support and advice is being provided by Job Centre Plus working closely with Tata, Careers Wales, the Welsh Government and other partners. There has been a positive response to awareness sessions with about 300 attending so far. A Jobs Fair was held on 28 April, attended by 38 high calibre employees – planning for a further Jobs Fair is underway. Union representatives were positive about the support provided to date.”

“The Task Force recognises there will be a need for continuing communication with former employees over the coming months as some individuals may not want to immediately take up offers of support. Further advice sessions are planned for June and July and these will be opened up to the supply chain as appropriate.”

“The Task Force’s Work Streams also continue their work actively. The Health Work Stream is assessing evidence on what impact there will be on primary and community services.  Community workshops are also planned to provide information about the support available to those affected by redundancy and wider family members.”

“The Training and Skills and Business and Supply Chain Work Streams are working closely together, also linking into the work of the Health Work Stream. This is helping to ensure full consideration is being given to support for individuals working in the supply chain as well as Tata’s employees.”

Aberavon’s AM, David Rees, supported by his Labour colleagues, Jeremy Miles, Mike Hedges, Julie James, Rebecca Evans and Lee Waters, the latter of whom represents Llanelli and the Trostre works, sought clarification from the First Minister on the future support available to any new buyer or, as rumours have indicated, Tata itself, if it decides to continue operating steel making in the UK.

At a time when steel workers are losing their jobs following January’s announcement, they highlighted that it is critical that the workforce, who have shown their dedication and commitment during this turbulent period, are provided with assurances and confidence that any future operator of steel making in Wales has a sustainable long-term vision for the industry.

David Rees AM said: “Steelworkers and their families, including those who have retired, have had the sword of Damocles hanging over them and it is now time for Tata to accept their responsibility to the workforce and give assurances over the future of the British Steel Pension Scheme. This is a major issue for any future buyer and the ability of Tata to remove it from the equation of selling will give confidence to the markets that steel has a strong and sustainable future in Wales.”

“The workforce, local businesses and the wider community want a positive solution to this situation and it’s time for all governments to ensure TATA act as a responsible seller and a responsible employer.”

Rebecca Evans, AM for Gower, said: “I am pleased that the First Minister took this opportunity early in the new Assembly term to reiterate Welsh Government’s commitment to the steel industry in Wales, and to its workforce and the communities which rely on the industry.”

Llanelli Labour AM Lee Waters added: “The impact of Tata’s decision will be felt right across the region. Not only are the plants at Port Talbot and Trostre closely linked, but the knock-on effects on jobs is huge. That is why we must focus on a long-term solution. There are now significant doubts about Tata’s long-term commitment to Wales and we need to ensure that whatever the outcome in the short-term we have a viable steel industry for the long-term.”