Wales politics

Carwyn Jones: There is no plan B to Tata deal

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones said the Tata deal is the "only deal on the table"

There is no "plan B" to a proposed deal to keep Tata's Port Talbot steel plant open, the first minister has warned.

Carwyn Jones told AMs it was the "only deal on the table" given the "lack of interest from the UK government".

His comments come after Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins criticised steelworkers' unions, accusing them of doing a disservice to members.

Steelworkers are expected to be balloted on changes to pensions in January.

Plaid's economy spokesman Adam Price has urged steel workers to reject a move away from final salary pensions.

Mark Turner, a Unite union official at Port Talbot, has called for politicians to "keep their opinions to themselves for the time being" after Mr Price's comments.

Tata has said pension reform is essential to the deal, which would see £1bn invested at Port Talbot over 10 years.

Image caption Tata has made a commitment to secure jobs and production, but a controversial pension deal is a major part of the move

Speaking during First Minister's Questions in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Jones said: "Although it is a matter for workers to make their own decisions, the proposal that is on the table is I believe one that will preserve the steel industry in south Wales.

"There is no plan B."

Pushed on whether he still supported the deal by Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies, Mr Jones said: "In the absence of anything from the UK government, and the lack of interest from the UK government since the last prime minister left his office, I believe this is the only deal on the table."

The company made a commitment to secure jobs and production at Port Talbot and its other steelworks in December.

Image caption Bethan Jenkins has said it is "entirely appropriate" for politicians to speak out on the deal

"I think it is entirely appropriate for politicians to be making views on this," Bethan Jenkins, who is Plaid's spokeswoman on steel, said.

"In fact I think that there are assembly members who have come out already in favour of the deal with Tata: Lee Waters, Andrew RT Davies not withstanding."

"I've spoken to many of the steelworkers who have said they are not getting that leadership, in the sense that they are not getting key information on what the £1bn investment would look like," she said.

She said Tata had put workers in a "gun to the head" situation.

"It does seem that they are saying it is either the pension scheme or jobs," she said.

Image caption Adam Price has called for workers to reject the pensions deal

"I think the trade unions are doing their own members a disservice by not having an opinion," Ms Jenkins said.

She said she was hearing "off the record from workers that the trade union leadership themselves are saying in those private meetings that they are not in favour".

Mr Jones described her comments on trade unions doing a disservice as "unfortunate".

Andy Richards, Unite Wales Secretary and a former Welsh Labour chairman, said "members will not be guided by publicity seeking politicians such as Adam Price, who seek to tell our members how they should vote on the proposals from the comfort of their own secure employment and public service pension scheme".

He said: "Politicians need to refrain from opportunistic posturing at the present time and let the TATA employees carefully consider all the information and come to an informed choice."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said Plaid Cymru should not be "playing politics with 7,000 jobs and a situation that could escalate very quickly indeed".

Mr Davies said Mr Price and Ms Jenkins were "not going to step in and secure an alternative to the loss of thousands of jobs" for workers "being asked to make a calculated sacrifice to secure their long-term livelihoods".

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