Alec Thraves, Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party and Swansea Trades Council
Our Socialist Party slogan of “no trust in Tata” has been tragically confirmed by the announcement that the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot steelworks will be shut down, with almost 3,000 steelworkers losing their jobs over the next several months.
Tata’s announcement is a declaration of class war, as they attempt to defend their shareholders’ multimillion pound profits, by destroying the lives of thousands of families of workers at the plant as well as thousands more across the area who are reliant on the steelworks.
Unite the Union has exposed that Tata Steel Limited, the direct parent company of Tata Steel UK Limited has reserves of £1.6 billion and has paid out dividends of £1.4 billion to shareholders between 2019 and 2023!
Steel unions must demand that the Welsh Labour government, and a future Starmer Labour government, must now act upon the widely supported demand of ‘nationalisation not devastation!’
Mass demonstration needed
As a first step in defending jobs, the steel unions, supported by the Wales TUC, should call a mass demonstration in Port Talbot on these demands. This can give confidence to steelworkers that the fight is not over and that militant industrial action is possible and necessary to put pressure on both Tata and the politicians.
Such action must be supported by the whole of the trade union movement, because Tata’s brutal proposal will also affect many more thousands of supplementary jobs that rely on the steelworks: small engineering companies, contractors, shops, and hospitality.
It really will devastate Port Talbot and the surrounding areas. Labour politicians including local MP Stephen Kinnock has reportedly said: “Steel is critical for our national security, good local jobs and for the transition for a greener economy – and we need our steel to be made in the UK.”
If steel is so critical for the UK economy then the future Labour government should, upon coming to power this year, immediately nationalise the steel industry under democratic workers’ control and management, with no compensation for Tata’s billionaire executives.
This straightforward and clear demand to bring Tata into public ownership must be fought for now!
Enough time has already been wasted sowing illusions that Tata or any other private corporations could be convinced to put the investment needed into green steel production which would also retain primary steel making through carbon capture or hydron processes.
In an ironic twist of events, the right-wing Italian government led by Giorgia Meloni, has started formal proceedings to put Europe’s largest steelworks under special administration (nationalisation) after failing to agree with AcrelorMittal over the planned closure of the steelworks and the loss of 10,000 jobs.
The Socialist Party has consistently supported the struggle in Port Talbot to save jobs and transition to green steel production. Tata and big business corporations’ only concerns are maximising profits with no regards to the consequences and the livelihoods of the local populations.
To save steel, the only alternative is bringing the industry back into public ownership – do it now!
Nationalisation not devastation!
‘Fear and anger’ in Port Talbot
While manning the Socialist Party campaign stall in Port Talbot on Saturday 20 January, it was pretty obvious from the community the amount of fear and anger generated by Tata’s decision.
Many of the people we spoke to feared the redundancies would greatly affect small businesses that support the steelworks, and local community shops, cafes, and bars. One person said: “Port Talbot is in economic decline and is heading to be a ghost town, like many others in Wales, with heavy industry disappearing”.
The anger certainly came in the form of them wanting to fight back against these cuts, many calling on the unions to organise a mass demonstration. People of Port Talbot and surrounding areas want to vent their feelings and call for action to prevent closure.
Many of the people we spoke to have a long and varied history within the Port Talbot plant, some worked there while it was British Steel and called for renationalisation.
The fear and anger is not going away. Virtually all the people we spoke to thanked the Socialist Party for our intervention in Port Talbot’s struggle.
John Morrissey, Swansea and west Wales Socialist Party