Steelworkers rally ahead of industrial action

Protestors in Port Talbot
Protestors gathered in Port Talbot on Monday ahead of worker strikes [BBC]

Workers are rallying in Port Talbot ahead of the first industrial action in the UK steel industry for 40 years.

From Tuesday, around 1,500 Unite members working for Tata Steel in Port Talbot and Llanwern will observe an overtime ban and "work to rule" - meaning refusing to do work that is optional in their contracts.

Tata said the industrial action was "unlawful" and it had offered workers "generous" redundancy packages.

The company called on Unite to suspend the action and return to discussions alongside other unions.

Members of Unite are holding a rally on Monday evening outside the entrance to the Port Talbot site - the UK’s largest steelworks - ahead of Tuesday’s industrial action.

Members of three unions have voted in favour of industrial action over Tata Steel’s proposals, but Unite is the only one to press ahead with its plans.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said members were taking action "because they know the company’s claim that jobs cannot be retained in South Wales during the transition to green steel is a lie".

Ms Graham said her members were "standing up and fighting for a better future".

Around 2,800 Tata Steel workers will lose their jobs when the company closes both blast furnaces in Port Talbot by the end of September.

The company said the current operation was losing £1m a day and was no longer financially viable. Construction work will begin on a greener electric arc furnace in August 2025 which requires far fewer staff.

A Unite banner in Port Talbot
Workers are protesting against Tata Steel's plans to cut 2,800 jobs [Reuters]
Tata's steelworks site in Port Talbot
Tata Steel said its Port Talbot works was losing £1m a day [Reuters]

Despite Tata's claim that the ballot was unlawful, the company would not confirm if it intended to pursue the matter in the courts.

In criticising Unite’s industrial action, Tata said it had raised issues with the union’s ballot.

A Tata spokesperson said: "We have challenged the legality of their ballot process on multiple occasions and our position is that their industrial action is unlawful.

"Furthermore, through extensive negotiations with unions the company twice substantially improved our support offering for affected employees - the most generous package in our history - [and] we would have expected Unite to put this offer to their members.

"Having now received notice of Unite’s industrial action, we have regrettably reverted our employee support package to closer to our standard terms."

The company called on Unite to "withdraw" its notice of industrial action and to return to discussions alongside the other unions.

Tata Steel plans to close the first of its two blast furnaces by the end of June, with the second to shut by the end of September.