Protest outside Tata Steelworks in Port Talbot. Photo: Alec Thraves
Protest outside Tata Steelworks in Port Talbot. Photo: Alec Thraves

Alec Thraves, Swansea Socialist Party and Swansea Trades Council       

Tata’s shock announcement, that it will be shutting down all of its Port Talbot coke ovens within a couple of days, will just confirm what most steelworkers already knew and what the Socialist Party has long warned: that there can be no trust in Tata!

As part of the fight to stop the jobs massacre of over 2,000 redundancies that threatens the future of steelmaking at the plant, the steel unions actually met with Tata management just a couple of days prior to the announcement, when the company said absolutely nothing about these closures and the loss of 200 jobs.

This multinational company has consciously run down the plant over many years. It has not participated in any serious negotiations around retaining virgin steel production and saving all the jobs during the compulsory 45-day legal consultation period, which is concluding.

This disgraceful and contemptuous move by the bosses is a warning of what could soon come for the other 1,800 steelworkers in Port Talbot!

Unite is midway through a ballot for industrial action, but alongside Community and GMB, the steel unions must now urgently prepare for a united industrial response to any further closures or redundancies.

All forms of militant action need to be discussed, planned and prepared for, including sectional strikes, all-out strikes, plant blockades, and partial or full occupations.

After years of under-investment, Tata bosses are blaming the state of the coking ovens for their decision. But nationalisation could be the basis of a massive reinvestment and equipment of the steelworks.

Therefore, ‘Nationalisation not Devastation’ has to be the rallying call to save the steelworks, with the demand for unconditional support placed on Keir Starmer and the newly elected Labour First Minister for Wales, Vaughan Gething. They must give a commitment that no jobs are lost in the meantime.

Tata bosses are politically and economically deaf to any pleas from the steel unions. An incoming Labour government in Westminster and the Labour-led Welsh government must bring the industry back into public ownership, under democratic workers’ control and management with compensation, based only on proven need!

There is no other alternative for retaining all jobs and saving the plant. The real fight for Port Talbot begins now!