Tata steel has torn up promises it made just a year ago and announced the closure of its Orb electrical steels base in Newport, South Wales.
Nearly 400 jobs are under threat there and another 26 in Wolverhampton, where the engineering steels service centre is to close.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said, “There has been no consultation about this proposal either at UK or European level. Company management should hang their heads in shame in the way this has come about.
“This is of course extremely devastating news for the workers affected, but all Tata Steel workers should be concerned by the way Tata is breaking its commitments.”
Rickhuss added, “We will be considering all options, up to and including industrial action, in defence of our members’ livelihoods.”
Other unions in steel—the GMB and Unite—also condemned the closures, but did not give any indication of strikes. Orb worker Matthew Grande said news had been leaking out about closure and they had to work with a “massive cloud hanging over our heads”. “We’re gutted and devastated,” he said.
The plant specialises in materials for renewable energy projects and electric vehicle production. There ought to be a fight to save the jobs, and if Tata won’t do it then the government should renationalise.
Making concessions and avoiding struggle has been disastrous. Last year the unions brokered a deal that meant workers accepted pension cuts in exchange for a “guarantee” that they could keep their jobs. This has proved worthless.
At the time Rickhuss said, “With a jobs guarantee until 2026 and commitments to invest across the business this agreement means workers can look to the future with confidence.”
Some Newport workers could now be offered relocation to Tata’s other plants in South Wales. But many will not feel able to uproot themselves.
There is some political pressure for action.
Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the economy Rhun ap Iorwerth said, “Plaid Cymru is asking Welsh and UK governments to investigate all possible interventions—from joint investment to even taking it into public ownership.”
Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey MP blamed the closures on a no-deal Brexit.
She said, “This government’s reckless no-deal policy is hammering manufacturing before Brexit has even happened.”
But the underlying reason is a world crisis in steelmaking as demand from other companies slows, and Tata’s determination to maintain profits.
Stopping the jobs slaughter means challenging that capitalist logic.
Fears of new recession are the rise
British manufacturing activity contracted in August for the fourth consecutive month to its lowest level since 2012, a survey has revealed.
Expectations of a recession are growing.
Bosses have ordered a slew of factory closures and job cuts this year in firms such as Ford and Honda.
“UK manufacturing is on track to contract for a second consecutive quarter. A meaningful recovery is unlikely given the ongoing struggles of global manufacturing,” said Andrew Wishart, an economist at Capital Economics, a consultancy.
Britain’s slump mirrors an even steeper fall for Germany and the first fall in US factory activity since 2009.