Socialist Worker

After Port Talbot cuts—we need a fight for steel jobs

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2486

The Tata Steelworks at Port Talbot

The Tata Steelworks at Port Talbot (Pic: Clint Budd/Flickr)

Steel firm Tata announced 1,000 new job cuts this week, including 750 at the Port Talbot steel works in South Wales.

After closures in Scotland and devastating job losses in Scunthorpe, Port Talbot was the last bastion of the industry left largely unscathed.

Port Talbot steel workers have been breaking production records over the past year.

This is their reward from a company that says “tough action is necessary”.

Port Talbot steel worker and Community union president Alan Coombs called the news “tragic”.

“Port Talbot is a town built on steel,” he said. “My father and grandfathers worked here.

“Thousands of other families here in Port Talbot rely on the steelworks.

“It is a source of pride and employment for our town—we cannot afford to lose it.”

It is not too late to fight. But it will mean a total change of strategy.

Bosses have been singing the same tune of profits first, people last for several years.

Too often union leaders have reflected management’s arguments.

As Coombs put it, the problem is “cheap Chinese imports and high energy costs”. The solution is “action from government to create a level-playing field on which we can compete”.


This is a call to shovel cash to Tata. Such a response to a major industry’s collapse is staggering.

Tata has already been granted a huge exemption from climate change fines and unions have agreed to make concessions on issues including job cuts.

None of it has been enough to save sites. Tata’s long term strategy of running its plants down rather than investing means it would take a huge cash injection to make them viable.

And a global slump in commodity prices means bosses don’t see that as worthwhile. Having squeezed out all the profit they can, they want to dump the husk that remains.

Shielding them from climate regulations or foreign competition won’t change that.

The alternative is breaking with bosses and the market. Steel could be nationalised and production used, for example, to overhaul railways and mass produce wind turbines.

That can’t happen without a major political and industrial fight.

The unions’ campaigning has so far been weak but when they called a march in Scunthorpe, thousands turned out.

The steel jobs’ slaughter must be turned into a deep crisis for the Tories, and that means a demand for nationalisation backed up with hard-hitting action.

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