Tata Steel: 600 Welsh jobs cut, mainly at Port Talbot

Tata Steel is cutting 900 jobs around the UK, including almost 600 jobs at plants in south Wales.

Most of the Welsh losses are management and administrative posts in Port Talbot, while sites in Crosskeys in Caerphilly county, and one near Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, will close.

Other job cuts include 155 in Yorkshire, 120 in the West Midlands and 30 on Teesside.

However, 120 jobs will created at a new hot strip rolling mill at Llanwern.

Shift levels at the company's Rotherham and Hartlepool plants will be reduced to match production to lower demand for bar products and pipelines.

Tata, which employs 19,000 people in its UK steel business, also announced that it would restart one of two blast furnaces at Port Talbot early next year as part of a £250m investment programme.

This will also lead to the restarting of a hot strip mill at Tata's site in Llanwern.

The company confirmed that the net effect in Wales of its announcement would be 584 fewer jobs.

Karl Kohler, chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations, said: "Today's proposals are part of a strategy to transform ourselves into an all-weather steel producer, capable of succeeding in difficult economic conditions.

"These restructuring proposals will help make our business more successful and sustainable, but the job losses are regrettable and I know this will be a difficult and unsettling time for the employees and their families affected.

"We will be working with our trade unions and government at a national and local level to ensure we provide them with as much assistance and support as possible.

"In addition, our subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise will be looking at how it can provide more support to local steel communities and stimulate new jobs following today's announcement.

"We will strengthen this work with a further £650,000 to help them create new jobs in affected areas.

"UK Steel Enterprise has teams in all the affected locations who, for almost four decades, have helped to regenerate local economies and create 70,000 new jobs in the UK.

"We will do everything we can to reduce the impact of the proposals on employees and, where possible, we will look to achieve job losses through voluntary redundancies."

'Close to Christmas'

Tata said demand for steel in Europe had dropped by 25% since 2007 and was forecast to fall by another 10% this year.

But the company said it was committed to investment to help create long-term stability.

Unite union Wales secretary Andy Richards said: "Today's announcement of job losses at Tata is devastating news for both the employees involved and the local community, especially coming so close to Christmas.

"It is a dark day for Welsh workers and for the steel industry in Wales - another twist in the knife of decimation started by Thatcher over 30 years ago."

Community trade union general secretary Michael Leahy said the announcement followed a four-year long downturn in the UK and European steel industry, with the fall in UK steel demand steeper than any other major European economy.

"This is why we need faster investment in infrastructure programmes and community benefit clauses in UK procurement, just as France and Germany do to support their own manufacturing industry," he said.

Reacting to the closure of the Tafarnaubach works near Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent council leader Hedley McCarthy said: "This is obviously disappointing news for our communities.

"But we are committed to working with the Welsh government and partners to support every person involved. We will provide those affected with as much guidance and support as possible."

The Welsh government said the cuts were "very disappointing news, and a massive blow to those who will be losing their jobs".

'Relentlessly focussed'

A spokesperson said: "The Welsh government has a very strong relationship with the company and officials will now work with Tata to establish a task force and identify what support we can provide for those affected.

"Tata's decision reflects the serious and ongoing challenges faced by manufacturing industries during these very difficult economic times.

"In addition to these challenges, it is clear that high energy costs and uncertainty over UK government energy policy are having a significant impact on business investment decisions."

Welsh Secretary David Jones said businesses were facing "challenging conditions" and the announcement would affect many in south Wales.

Mr Jones said that "whilst it will not give the individuals affected comfort, this commercial decision is one that has been undertaken to ensure Tata's UK operations can remain competitive.

"I have been assured that Tata remains committed to having a strong presence in Wales and the UK as a whole".

He said ministers in London and Cardiff had to be "relentlessly focused on the economy" and he was "committed to working with the Welsh government to ensure we succeed in this area".

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