Tata Steel’s workers in the UK will begin an “indefinite strike” from July 8 in protest over the company’s plans to cut jobs, marking the UK’s first strike by steelworkers in 40 years.

Tata Steel’s Port Talbot steel production plant is seen at night time (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Around 1,500 workers based in the Port Talbot and Llanwern steel plants will begin an all-out indefinite strike action over the company’s plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces, British trade union, Unite, said in a statement on Friday.

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“Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs,” said Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham. “They are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.”

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The background

Tata Steel is one of Britain’s biggest steelmakers. In April, the company said it would proceed with a 1.25 billion pound ( 13,217 crore) plan to build an electric arc furnace at Port Talbot and start closing the existing blast furnaces, according to a Bloomberg report.

The reason

The closures and job cuts were initially announced in January as part of the company’s plan to turn around its loss-making UK business by switching to lower carbon electric arc furnaces, a proposal also backed by 500 million pounds ( 5,286.81 crore) of the British government’s money, according to a Reuters report.

Since the plan’s announcement, the company said it had held seven months of formal and informal discussions with the UK trade unions. It also expected to create more indirect jobs in engineering and construction and reduce CO2 emissions by 5 million tonnes each year, PTI wrote.

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The company said that it was “extremely disappointed” in response. “Our existing steelmaking assets are near the end of their life, are operationally unstable and causing unsustainable losses of £1 million a day,” the company’s statement read. “This is why preparations to close the blast furnaces and associated plants in Port Talbot are unchanged.”

What does this mean for Tata Steel?

The strike is scheduled just four days after the UK’s general elections. Britain’s Labour Party, largely expected to win the general election on July 4, has called for Tata to halt its plans and wait until after the vote to engage in talks with the government, the BBC reported earlier, citing Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds.

“Labour has pledged £3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite,” the union said in the statement. “Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election.”

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans,” Graham said.

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