STEEL giant Tata yesterday announced plans to cut 900 jobs and close 12 sites to improve competitiveness.
Most of the job losses will be in south Wales as Tata restructures management and administrative functions at the plant.
In addition, shift levels at the company’s Hartlepool and Rotherham operations will be reduced to match production to lower demand for bar products and pipelines.
The proposed changes are expected to lead to the loss of 900 jobs in the UK, including 580 in south Wales, 155 in Yorkshire, 120 in the West Midlands and 30 on Teesside.
Tata said demand for steel in Europe had fallen by 25 per cent since 2007 and was forecast to slump by another 10 per cent this year, with construction among the industries cutting back. The Indian-owned company, which employs 19,000 in its steel business in the UK, said it remained committed to investing to help create long-term stability.
Indian-owned Tata Steel also said it will restart one of two blast furnaces at Port Talbot in the first quarter of next year as part of a £250 million investment programme.
Karl Köhler, 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.”
Mr Köhler said the group’s UK Steel Enterprise division will examine how it can support local steel communities, and the group will contribute £650,000 to help them create jobs in affected areas.
Unions described it as “devastating” news, while Unite said it rounded off a week of “jobs carnage” across the UK economy.
Michael Leahy, general-secretary of the Community trade union, said: “We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the company to ensure our principle of no compulsory redundancies is upheld, although we are pleased to see the company has already committed to offering a package of training and support for those affected by these changes.
“Sadly, these potential job losses are symptomatic of the continuing failure of the government’s economic policy and yet another reason why we are calling on them B to take urgent action to stimulate economic growth and help revive the manufacturing sector.”
Welsh Secretary David Jones said Tata had to make the decision to remain viable: “There is no denying the challenging conditions businesses are facing in the global marketplace.
“Today’s announcement by Tata Steel will impact on many in South Wales, but, while 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.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “It’s a bad blow. What we also need is a government that will run the economy differently so companies like Tata aren’t laying people off.”
Unite said a series of announcements in the past week have put around 20,000 jobs at risk. As well as the Tata jobs, other jobs cut or put at risk included 12,500 at food firm Vion, 900 at Premier Foods, 140 at Standard Life, 735 at Comet and 1,300 at Newcastle City Council.