Tata has announced it is cutting more than 1,000 jobs, dealing another huge blow to the British steel industry. Most of the jobs are being cut at Britain’s biggest steel plant at Port Talbot in South Wales, where 750 positions will go.
The Indian-owned company is also axing 200 support function roles and 100 steel mill jobs, affecting Llanwern, Trostre, Corby and Hartlepool.
Prime Minister David Cameron described the announcement as “very sad news”.
Gary Keogh, a Port Talbot steelworker and union official, told Sky News that people were “very emotional” when the announcement was made in a meeting this morning.
“It was devastation to be perfectly honest,” he said.
Many service firms and contractors rely on the Port Talbot plant, which employs more than 4,000 people, so the direct cuts will have a knock-on effect across the whole region.
Mr Keogh estimated that thousands more people could lose their jobs in Port Talbot and surrounding areas.
“The town of Port Talbot and the surrounding communities absolutely depend on the steel industry and the knock-on effect this will have to the surrounding communities will be absolutely devastating,” he said.
“Steel is in our blood in Port Talbot … this is a massive concern for me personally and for the rest of Port Talbot about our children and our children’s children.”
Announcing the cuts, Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata in Europe, said: “I know this news will be unsettling for all those affected, but these tough actions are critical in the face of extremely difficult market conditions which are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
“We need the European Commission to accelerate its response to unfairly traded imports and increase the robustness of its actions.
“Not doing so threatens the future of the entire European steel industry.
“And while we welcome progress on UK energy costs, the Government must take urgent action to increase the competitiveness of the UK for its vital steel sector.”
Almost 5,000 job cuts have been announced in the steel industry since last summer as companies struggle with high energy costs and cheap Chinese imports.
Tata Steel slashed 1,200 jobs at its sites in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire in October.
Unions have accused the Government of failing to help the flailing industry and instead being a “cheerleader for China”.
Community union general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “The dumping of cheap Chinese steel is one of the biggest causes of this crisis, yet the UK Government remains a cheerleader for China and their bid for ‘market economy status’, which would decimate what’s left of our steel industry. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
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The Prime Minister said: “We’ll work very closely with the company and with the local communities to do everything we can to get people the training and assistance they need, and will continue to do everything we can to help the steel industry.
“There is, obviously, this worldwide glut and over-production of steel. It’s affecting countries right around the world.
“But the steel industry has asked us for action on energy prices – we’ve taken that. They’ve asked us for action on procuring more British steel – we’ve taken action on that. They want us to take action within the European Union and we’ve done that as well.”
Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle accused the Government of having “sat on its hands” while the industry descended into crisis.
“Only by taking immediate and decisive action, not least by fully engaging at an EU level, can the Government make sure our steel industry survives so that it can benefit from planned infrastructure spending,” she said.
“If this doesn’t happen urgently, the Tories’ laissez-faire attitude to our steel industry could lead the downturn into a death spiral.”