Over 1,000 jobs will be cut at Tata steel sites across the UK, including 750 jobs at one of its largest sites in Port Talbot, South Wales.
For the workforce of around 4,000, this is a devastating blow. Port Talbot′s iconic works dominate its coastal landscape. The local economy is dependent on steel production and it is estimated that for every job at Tata, another job in the wider area is supported. There is a gloomy feeling among residents of my hometown. We’re used to bad news; job cuts have become an all-too-frequent occurrence — the works employed 18,000 people in the 1960s. However, such a large job cut is more-or-less unprecedented; it may be the beginning of the end for the works.
There will now be a 45-day consultation period when it will be decided which jobs will go and at what parts of the operation. Many families are now nervously awaiting a call or a meeting to find out whether or not their livelihoods will be affected.
It seems likely that redundancies will largely fall on both the younger and older generations of workers, but this will be dependent on where the bosses wish to make their cutbacks. Often, steelworkers have had a job for life and there is a very real chance that many workers who have been there for 20 or 30 years will be made unemployed. They will have to enter a precarious job market, with Tata as their only experience to date.
Many natives of the town have close links to the works, with generations of families having worked there. People are worried about the economic effect on the area and their own families, but they’re also devastated by the damage to the town′s proud, working-class, industrial identity. Workers at the site are fed up with bosses who’ve played a smoke and mirrors game — in recent months bosses have hinted at job cut announcements and have exaggerated the poor financial situation at the works. Equally, they’ve been let down by their union – the Blairite Community Union — which, unsurprisingly, has done little to fight management on the cut. It would seem that in the current consultation, Community will only negotiate with management on which jobs will go, rather than on stopping the cuts altogether.
The current crisis in steel has been caused mainly by Chinese ″dumping″ of cheap steel which steel production in the UK cannot compete with. The Tories have pretended to take action, but they’ve mainly hidden behind ostensibly prohibitive EU regulations. Such regulations haven’t stopped countries like Germany and Italy intervening to stop job cuts. To add insult to injury, it looks likely that the navy will use non-UK sourced steel to build a fleet of new ships. Many now see this as a fight for life, as the end of the steel works will equate to the death of the town. Political action is desperately needed to subsidise energy costs, stop dumping, enforce procurement — much cheaper actions in the short term than the potential economic depression the closure of Tata Steel Port Talbot might have on the area. We need to save steel jobs and stop UK industry taking yet another blow while the Tories stand by.