Unite Tata Steel ballot victory

Alec Thraves, Swansea Socialist Party and Swansea Trades Council

Unite the Union has announced a significant ‘Yes’ vote result in its ballot for industrial action at Tata Steel at Port Talbot and Llanwern.

All four bargaining units, across the two sites, returned a ‘Yes’ vote, showing the determination of the majority of the 1,500 Unite members to defend their jobs, save the industry and protect the local communities.

With the average age of a Unite Port Talbot steelworker at just 36, it is clear that future jobs and security are far more important than the financial bribes that Tata has dangled in front of the workforce.

Tata Steel bosses continue their bullying tactics by threatening legal action, claiming ‘significant irregularities in the ballot process’! With no interest in serious negotiations with the unions to preserve the primary steelmaking process under a green transition, Tata’s only objective now is shutting down the blast furnaces and decommissioning the ‘heavy end’, which has already started with the recent closure of the coke ovens.

The Community union, whose members primarily work at the threatened ‘heavy end’ of the plant, started its ballot for industrial action on 11 April, with the result due in a month’s time on 9 May. This Unite ballot victory will undoubtedly be a big boost to the confidence of Community members, the largest steel union, alongside the small GMB membership, who have also started balloting, to vote ‘Yes’ and prepare for united action against this brutal employer.

Unite’s positive result has given them a six-month window for industrial action, which can now be used for all the steel unions to prepare together in united action to save the plant.

As the Socialist Party has consistently argued, there can be no trust in Tata to invest the billions of pounds necessary to save primary steelmaking. The demand for ‘Nationalisation not Devastation’ has widespread support across the communities and crucially within the workforce.

Malcolm Gullam, a Unite retired steelworker, commented after the result: “Now is the time to push Labour into announcing it will renationalise as soon as a new government is formed.”

That demand is getting a huge echo and must be the central platform for the trade union leaders to act upon.