Port Talbot with the Steelworks in the background. Photo: Lewis Clarke/CC
Port Talbot with the Steelworks in the background. Photo: Lewis Clarke/CC

Alec Thraves, Swansea Socialist Party and Swansea Trades Council

Tata Steel bosses are now stepping up their ‘non-negotiable’ plan to shut the two remaining blast furnaces at its Port Talbot site, something the Socialist Party has consistently raised is on the cards. This means the loss of almost 2,000 steel jobs and a knock-on effect to thousands more across local communities.

Steel unions attempted to engage with Tata to try and convince the board of their alternative plans to retain ‘primary’ steel making. But large sections of the workforce had already recognised that the Tata chiefs had no intention whatsoever of reversing their devastating decision.

The recent unannounced and abrupt closure of the coke ovens was just the latest indication of the Tata bosses’ intransigent position and their contempt for any serious negotiations with trade union leaders.

One steelworker commented on our campaign stall in Port Talbot at the end of March, that “management have no interest whatsoever in production targets because they are all preparing and implementing the decommissioning of the heavy end of the plant. To such an extent that they have even requested a written portfolio of all our tools to ensure that none of Tata’s equipment is taken off site”.

Tata’s ruthless actions are now clear to everyone!

Chief executive officer, Rajesh Nair, has contacted all employees with what is claimed to be the ‘most generous’ redundancy offer in Tata’s history.

The timing is deliberately aimed at undermining the industrial action ballots, midway through the process in Unite and being launched by the GMB and, the biggest steel union, Community, over the next few weeks.

However, this huge financial ‘carrot’ being dangled in front of steelworkers, similar to what the Ford Motor Company implemented in Bridgend, also has a vicious ‘stick’ alongside it.

In a blatant attempt to ‘buy off’ the workforce, Tata has added a pre-condition that these enhanced redundancy terms “are conditional upon there being no industrial action in the business”.

So, the battle lines are crystal clear!

In order to combat Tata’s ‘most generous redundancy offer in history’ and to achieve a massive ‘Yes’ vote for action, steelworkers must be convinced and confident of a strategy for victory and the retention of all jobs.

This will not be achieved by trying to persuade Tata or any other multinational corporation to invest the billions of pounds necessary to retain the furnaces under a green transition.

As the Socialist Party has demanded, nationalisation is the only guarantee of saving the plant and saving all the jobs.

Government financing of a green transition for this ‘critical’ UK manufacturing industry by bringing it back into public ownership, has to become a concrete proposal and demand from all union leaders if they are to undermine Tata’s blackmailing efforts on the workforce.

There can be no more false hopes or illusions that, even with some promised government subsidies, Tata will alter its position.

Unite, Community and the GMB must urgently demand that the sitting Welsh Labour government, and a future Keir Starmer-led government, likely to be in office in just a few months time, immediately nationalise Tata, under democratic workers’ control and management with any compensation paid only on the basis of proven need, meaning nothing going to Tata bosses or big shareholders!

Nationalisation offers a future for Port Talbot and all the other sites across the UK. Now is the time for the steel unions to use their potential industrial strength, confront a brutal employer and demand that a Labour government defends steelworkers. If the last Labour government can nationalise and bail out the billionaire bankers, they can take the action needed to save our steel.

‘Nationalisation not Devastation’ – Support our steelworkers!