Battle under way to rescue hundreds of steel plant jobs in Shotton

Reporter:

Owen Evans

BATTLE lines have been drawn to save the hundreds of jobs at Deeside’s “profitable” steel plant.

More than 800 jobs are at risk at Tata Steel’s Deeside operation after the India-based company issued the bombshell announcement that it was looking at selling all of its UK locations.

Community leaders from Shotton have now called on the UK Government to take “strong action” to try to save the plant – and the entire steel industry.

Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said all needed to fight to try to keep the Shotton plant – and others throughout the UK – open for business.

He said: “The news obviously come as a considerable shock. 

“We were clearly expecting the board to consider the future of Port Talbot, but the decision to put the whole UK base up for sale has come as a considerable shock. 

While Shotton is a profitable plant, we cannot assume that its future is secure. 

“My main focus is on Shotton and the risk of it getting dragged down.”

A joint statement from the UK Government and Welsh Government said “all viable options” were being looked at to try to rescue the industry.

Mr Tami added: “The UK Government is putting out some muted message that it could take on some involvement.

“The Government has been talking about intervening for quite some time; however, it appears to be all talk and no action.

“The industry is in a state because of the dumping of Chinese steel, yet Government MEPs, along with Ukip MEPs, have blocked every attempt of stronger action.

“This Government is more interested in cosying up with Chinese investors rather than saving the steel industry.”

The Welsh Government will reconvene on Monday with First Minister Carwyn Jones set to make a statement before members.

Connah’s Quay councillor Ian Dunbar, who worked at Shotton Steel for almost 40 years, said the closure of the factory would “devastate” the community.

He said: “We sent a letter to the Welsh Government when they were talking about the Port Talbot issues and said there was no mention of Shotton and they should think of them as well and after the news we have had today that it could affect Shotton, it could have a devastating effect on the area.

“The UK Government and the Welsh Government need to work more closely than they have been doing. If it was closed, it would not only affect the workers but all of the ancillary things that rely on it.”

Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant said he supported the proposal of a recall for members of the National Assembly.

He said: “I vividly remember the impact of the high level of redundancies we experienced here in Deeside in 1980.

“The Shotton group is still profitable and it must be safeguarded and jobs protected. I’ll make sure Shotton’s voice is heard in response to Tata’s proposal.”

Tata Steel said conditions such as global oversupply of steel, significant increase in third world country exports into Europe, high manufacturing costs, continued weakness in domestic market demand in steel and a volatile currency had led to its decision.

A spokesman said: “These factors are likely to continue into the future and have significantly impacted the long term competitive position of the UK operations in spite of several initiatives undertaken by the management and the workers of the business in recent years.

“Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the board of its European holding company, ie Tata Steel Europe, to explore all options for portfolio restructuring, including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK in whole or in parts.

“Given the severity of the funding requirement in the foreseeable future, the Tata Steel Europe board will be advised to evaluate and implement the most feasible option in a time bound manner.” The UK Government has called on Tata to give enough time for buyers to be found for its UK business in an attempt to save thousands of jobs.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the union, Community, said: “The UK is now on the verge of a national crisis. Tata Steel withdrawing completely from the UK risks destroying our entire steel industry.

“That would be a disaster both for those communities reliant on steel jobs and our entire industrial base.

“For any advanced manufacturing economy, steelmaking capacity is not optional.

“Losing the ability to make steel would fundamentally change our economy for ever.”

See full story in the Leader

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