Talks continue over Port Talbot steel plant

Talks continue over Port Talbot steel plant

Union leaders have held talks in India ahead of a crucial board meeting of steel giant Tata which could decide the fate of thousands of workers.

Officials from the Community union had "constructive" talks with senior company representatives in Mumbai, where the board will meet on Tuesday.

The future of thousands of UK steelworkers is at stake, especially at the Port Talbot plant in South Wales.

The site bore the brunt of 1,000 job losses announced in January but unless Tata presses ahead with a turnaround plan, the future of the huge plant could be in doubt.

A spokesman for Community said: "The delegation from Community led by Roy Rickhuss, general secretary, along with Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, and Frits van Wieringen, chairman of the Tata Steel European Works Council, met in Mumbai with senior representatives of Tata Steel in advance of the board meeting.

"The meeting was open and constructive. The European delegates made the case for Tata to continue to support the UK business.

"Tata Steel representatives outlined the context of commitment to the UK business to date, financial performance and the challenging global conditions of the steel sector."

More than 35,000 people have signed an open letter to Tata Steel's chairman Cyrus Mistry in support of the UK steelworkers.

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Rickhuss said: "No-one underestimates the scale of the challenge we are facing but our steel industry is of vital importance to our communities, our families and our nation.

"In Mumbai, I'm standing up for the whole UK steel industry and asking Tata to give us the chance we need to succeed.

"Steel is the very foundation of our manufacturing base, even the Prime Minister has conceded that it would be simply unacceptable for Tata to end our steelmaking capacity."

Alan Coombs, chairman of the Port Talbot multi-union committee, who has any also travelled  to Mumbai, said: "Our town was built on the steel industry.

"It has given us more than just jobs, it has shaped our lives and communities. On behalf of my town, my workmates and my industry, I will be asking Tata to back Port Talbot and the plan to save our steelworks."

Steelworkers and companies have called for more action from the government to tackle cheap Chinese steel imports and high energy costs which have been blamed for thousands of job cuts.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said the Government was prepared to consider "all options" to ensure that steel production continued at the South Wales site.

"We are looking at all manner of options that may or may not be available to us as a government, all options," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme

"It starts from a base of making sure that we continue to make steel in Port Talbot."

She suggested that Liberal Democrat former Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable had not done enough to address the problems in the British steel industry during his time in office between 2010 and 2015.

"I think Vince could have done more, yes. Sorry, but that is my view. We were in a coalition then," she said.

"When I was appointed the Prime Minister specifically said to me, 'we know we have some very real problems in our steel industry and I want you to devote a large amount of your time to solving those problems as much as you can'."

Her comments were dismissed as "utterly rubbish" by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron who said Sir Vince had protected the Redcar plant, which has subsequently closed, and the wider steel industry.

"This government has no plan and is failing them," he said.