London (AFP) - India's Tata Steel pledged Wednesday to stay in Britain, ending months of uncertainty over the future of its operations including at the sprawling Port Talbot plant.
"Tata Steel UK today reached an agreement with trade unions on a number of proposals that would structurally reduce risks and help secure a more sustainable future for its UK business," it said in a statement.
The group vowed to keep its two blast furnaces at Port Talbot in Wales open until 2021, invest in various British sites and overhaul pensions.
Trade unions added in a separate statement that Tata has entered a "jobs pact" to avoid any compulsory redundancies over the next five years.
Tata currently employs around 11,000 people in Britain, including 4,000 at Port Talbot -- the nation's biggest steel plant.
Union members will now face a ballot on the proposals in the new year.
"Steel unions have today secured a commitment from Tata Steel to secure the future of jobs and production at Port Talbot and other steelworks across the UK," read a statement issued by unions Community, GMB and Unite.
"This proposal comes eight months after Tata announced their original intention to sell their UK steel assets."
Tata will commit to a ten-year investment plan of Â£1.0 billion ($1.3 billion, 1.2 billion euros) to support Port Talbot and secure the future of other sites, according to the unions.
The company will consult on closing and replacing the old British Steel pension scheme which it inherited with the purchase of Corus in 2007.
The unions added that, after meeting with company executives at the Port Talbot facility, the latest proposals were "welcome".
"The past year has been incredibly difficult for steelworkers and their families," said Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union.
"When Tata announced in March that they planned to sell the steelworks, no-one knew if they would have a job by Christmas.
"This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and bring serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steelworks across the UK."
Earlier this year, Tata announced that it was considering the future of its loss-making British assets, blaming the decision on a global oversupply of steel, cheap imports into Europe from countries including China, high costs and currency volatility.
Tata put its European long products division up for sale as it refocussed on strip steel, in the face of a collapsing market. In May, the group sold that loss-making division to investment firm Greybull Capital, who renamed it as the new British Steel.
At the start of July, Tata revealed that it was holding strategic discussions with several companies, including German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, over the possible formation of a joint venture for European steel operations.
And in late November, the company began exclusive talks for the sale of its speciality steel assets to metal processing firm Liberty House.