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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 July 2020

Nationalise Tata Steel to save jobs

Port Talbot steelworks, photo Grubb (Creative Commons)

Port Talbot steelworks, photo Grubb (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Alec Thraves, Socialist Party Wales

Media reports that Tata Steel in Port Talbot is considering shutting down its two blast furnaces, and replacing them with 'greener' electric arc furnaces, which would require far less workers, have provoked anger and panic among the workforce, steel unions, and local politicians.

Electric arc furnaces would basically turn the works into a steel recycling plant rather than the primary steel-making operation (using basic raw materials and converting iron ore and coking coal into steel) which now exists.

Inevitably, many of the 4,000 jobs would be under threat if this cost-saving project is given the green light, which would devastate the already battered economies of Port Talbot, the Valleys and surrounding areas.

As to be expected, the damage of big job losses to one of the poorest communities in the UK is of secondary importance to Tata and the Tories, whose primary concern is shareholders' profits.

This proposal has nothing to do with Tata's newly found 'green' credentials, but is all about securing central and Welsh government loans and grants to offset the losses of decreased demand for steel in the UK and internationally.

Getting their hands on taxpayers' money, yet again, means that Tata has to sign up to the government's 'Project Bush' scheme which makes any cash incentives reliant on companies reducing their carbon emissions.

Moving to electric arc furnaces would partially fulfil that requirement, but would also drastically cut Tata Steel's wage bill by throwing steelworkers onto the unemployment scrapheap with next to no chance of finding alternative employment.

Since the battle to save jobs and pensions in 2016-17, steelworkers have been served up with further job cuts, as well as attacks on pensions and conditions. The promises to 'keep the furnaces firing' and further investment are starting to look even shallower.

In assisting the struggles of the steelworkers four years ago, the Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network pointed out that 'the only secure future for the plant is nationalisation of steel under democratic workers' control and management'. This is the only way to protect jobs and the environment.

That central demand back in 2016-17 to 'nationalise Tata to save steel' must be urgently put back on the agenda in preparation for the struggle ahead!

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