Tata Steel UK plant

Unite the Union has withdrawn the strike action it had planned in protest against job losses at Tata Steel UK’s Port Talbot plant. Screenshot courtesy: YouTube/Tata Steel UK

Unite the Union, which had planned industrial action from July 8 over Tata Steel UK’s future plans for its Port Talbot plant in Wales, has called off its strike, saying that further investment talks had been assured.

Last week, Tata Steel UK had challenged Unite’s balloting process and had also said that a planned closure of blast furnaces was likely to be brought forward if the steelworkers’ strike did begin.

The company said that it was building “a new Electric Arc Furnace for greener steel production at Port Talbot, which is currently the UK’s largest single carbon emitter”.

Yesterday, as Unite called off the strike, Tata Steel UK welcomed the decision and shelved the early closure plans.

“We have received written confirmation from Unite Union that with immediate effect they are suspending their current action short of a strike as well as the potential strike action due to commence on Monday 8 July,” said a Tata Steel spokesperson.

“As a result, and given we can now be confident of ensuring appropriate resourcing of activities to operate safely, we will halt preparations for the early cessation of operations on Blast Furnace 4 and the wider heavy end in Port Talbot, planned for this week — we welcome the fact that we have avoided having to progress down this path,” added the spokesperson.

The company said that the resumption of talks with the unions would now progress. It would focus on the future investments and aspirations for the business, and “not on a renegotiation of our existing plan for the heavy-end closure or the enhanced employment support terms”.

“The wind down process for Blast Furnace 5 has now begun to plan and we expect to produce the final iron at the end of this week,” the spokesperson added, with reference to the furnace scheduled for closure this week.

Unite members were striking in protest against job losses and the effects on the local community. Other steel unions have welcomed the news, something Unite said was “essential”.

“Workers were simply not prepared to stand idly by while steel making ended and their communities were laid to waste,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

The Mumbai-headquartered steel major had originally planned to shut down one of the blast furnaces by the end of June and the second one by September. However, Unite the Union’s proposed strike from July 8 had raised the prospect of the closure being forced earlier.