'Very emotional' meeting over Tata's Port Talbot job cuts

Port Talbot on Tuesday Image copyright Getty Images

The mood inside a mass meeting of union representatives at Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant was "very emotional", a union rep has said.

The firm announced 750 job cuts there on Monday, among 1,050 across the UK.

A further 1,200 jobs could be lost as its suppliers shed workers in response, a think tank has said.

Martin Waters from the Community union added: "It's very emotional. There are people in there with high mortgages."

The meeting began at 17:00 GMT and was attended by more than 50 people.

Earlier, First Minister Carwyn Jones said Port Talbot should be designated as an enterprise zone by the chancellor to help safeguard Tata Steel's future in the town.

He told AMs that enterprise zones offered tax relief on capital spending and help with business rates.

During First Minister's Questions, Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies called on the Welsh government to cut business rates to help Tata.

Mr Jones said business rates were under review but claimed it would not be enough by itself to solve the steel industry crisis.

Problems such as a glut of steel on the world market, a strong pound and high energy costs were all outside the Welsh government's control, the first minister added.

He said Economy Minister Edwina Hart had written to Chancellor George Osborne asking him to approve the idea of an enterprise zone to give firms in Port Talbot business rate relief and tax breaks.

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Media captionGeorge Osborne denies being the 'bankers' chancellor'

Meanwhile the chancellor defended the UK government in a Commons spat with his Labour shadow John McDonnell, who accused him of being quick to defend bankers' bonuses, but taking "four months to save steelworkers jobs".

Mr Osborne said steel was in an "incredibly difficult situation" and the industry was losing jobs in every country in the world.

UK ministers were taking action to defend steel, he said, including measures to reduce energy costs and "deal with the dumping of Chinese steel".

On Wednesday, Mrs Hart is due to chair a task force set up in response to the job losses at Tata, and other firms who depend on steel workers' wages for their survival.

Traders 'shaken'

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Media captionMichael Sheen: "It's a very frightening time for the town"

As politicians defended their actions and ability to help the steel industry, business owners in Port Talbot spoke of their fears for the future.

Michael Cosker, president of Port Talbot's Chamber of Trade and owner of cafe Rolls Choice, said: "It's been a hell of a knock. It's a massive blow for the town.

"Sometimes you feel like the town has a death sentence - especially with [the future of] junction 41 still up in the air, we have so much thrown at us.

"We're all gutted."

Ziaur Rahman, owner of Indian restaurant Cinnamon Kitchen on Aberavon seafront, said: "Three years ago we invested a lot of money to do the building up and took a huge risk to invest in the town.

"Our trade is going to fall big time... and hold back any investment we had planned.

"It is very sad news. It has shaken us."

Rebecca Morris, team leader at hotel and pub The Twelve Knights near the plant, said the announcement would hit business hard.

Image copyright Google

She said: "We take a lot of hotel bookings through the works.

"About 90% of our regulars are steel workers. People will either take to drink or not come at all."

Owner of recently-opened restaurant Mavericks Bar & Grill Lee Davies said the announcement would have a "massive impact" on his business.

"Steelworkers are our main clientele," he said.

"I've spoken to a few customers who have lost their jobs and they're devastated."

Image copyright Cinnamon Kitchen

Actor Michael Sheen, who grew up in Port Talbot, told BBC Two's Newsnight it was a "very frightening time for the town".

"That has a knock-on effect for the whole region, the support work that's going on, other people, jobs that are dependent on what's going on in the steelworks," he said.

Tata Steel Europe, which employs 17,000 in the UK, is in the throes of a wide-scale reorganisation of its business.

Announcing the job cuts on Monday, the company said "tough actions are critical in the face of extremely difficult market conditions".

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