Wales

Tata Steel job cuts: No 'difference of opinion' with unions

Andy Richards
Image caption Unite's Andy Richards said the unions and Tata were 'unified'

Union leaders have said there was "no difference of opinion" with steel giant Tata, despite the company announcing more than 1,000 job losses.

Port Talbot will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 750 jobs going.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart chaired a meeting of unions, Tata and other organisations to consider re-training options for staff affected.

She later said they had not considered plans to cope with further cuts, saying there was "everything to fight for".

"The doom and gloom that sometimes gets out through you in the media is actually not helpful on this," Mrs Hart said after the task force meeting on Wednesday.

"If I was carrying on I would want to think there was a strong future, because the plants are there."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEdwina Hart says there is 'everything to fight for'

Andy Richards from the Unite union said: "We're here to look at immediate action that we can take to offer relief to the industry, and longer term action to protect the industry.

"I want to make it absolutely clear from the union's point of view, there is absolutely no difference of opinion between ourselves and Tata."

Stuart Wilkie from Tata said the company was taking all "necessary steps" to preserve the remaining jobs.

As well as the jobs going in Port Talbot, Tata Steel announced on Monday that 200 support staff elsewhere in the UK would be axed.

These include 15 at Trostre, Llanelli, along with jobs in Hartlepool in north east England and Corby, Northamptonshire.

The company said tough action was "critical in the face of extremely difficult market conditions".

Image copyright Getty Images

Following the announcement, think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said a further 1,200 jobs could be lost in the Port Talbot plant's supply chain.

A meeting was held on Tuesday night for about 50 union representatives there.

Martin Waters from the Community union described it as "very emotional".

First Minister Carwyn Jones said on Wednesday that despite the job cuts, there was "no doubt in my mind" that the steel industry in Wales had a future.

"We have a state-of-the-art plant at Port Talbot but there are unique factors that are disadvantageous to the UK," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCarwyn Jones says the UK steel industry has a future but needs a 'level playing field'

"Firstly, the strong pound makes exports more expensive and, secondly, energy prices, which are far too high in the UK.

"The UK government has recognised that in a statement last month - we do now need to see action to help our steel producers get through this difficult period."

Mr Jones also called on the European Union to tackle the problem of cheap Chinese imports.

"I believe the Welsh steel industry can compete with the best and can produce the best as long as that level playing field is there - unfortunately it isn't at the moment," he said.

Image caption Jonathan Edwards accused the prime minister of helping bankers more than manufacturing workers

David Cameron has rejected criticism that his ministers put bankers before Welsh manufacturing workers.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards accused the UK government of being a "cheerleader" for China to be awarded World Trade Organization Market Economy Status (MES), because it wants the City of London to become a major trading centre for the Chinese currency.

"MES for China would make it nigh on impossible to impose trading tariffs on Chinese steel, despite its dumping strategy," he said.

Mr Cameron said the two issues were separate and "we should continue to pursue robust action against China which is exactly what we're doing, based on the merits".

"But in terms of a closer relationship, trading relationship with China, I want to help those Welsh businesses including companies like Airbus to break in to Chinese markets," he said.

More on this story