Tata steelworkers rally MPs to ‘stand up and support us’ over job cuts

'Rishi Sunak stop stringing us along back UK workers' say Port Talbot staff

Unite Steelworkers Port Talbot

South Wales steelworkers travelled to Westminster today to rally MPs for support to protect their jobs ahead of an opposition Day debate over Port Talbot lay-offs. 

Dozens of Port Talbot steelworkers gathered at College Green in Westminster fighting for their livelihoods and local community as they urged politicians to stand with them and invest, warning of “destitution” should the industry fail. 

It comes as the steel giant Tata announced the axing of around 3,000 British jobs, citing ‘financial reasons’, while Unite the union revealed that the owner of Tata Steel UK raked in £3 billion in profits last year. 

One employee told reporters that workers were being “held in contempt” by the company, as he stressed the importance of the industry with Port Talbot the “biggest employer in the area”. 

Electrical engineer Jason Wyatt said: “Our message to politicians is step up, stand up and put your support behind us, behind the steel industry.”

He added: “Should the industry fail in Port Talbot, the opportunity for people like me and people from the generations coming behind me to go into the work I’m in won’t exist in the locality.

“Port Talbot will fall further and further into destitution. It’s terrible what Tata are doing, they’re holding us in contempt.”

Workers called for nationalisation of the industry and expressed their concern for the next generations growing up in the area. Outside Parliament, they said Rishi Sunak was “stringing us along” and said they need “real investment with job guarantees.”

Labour MPs joined workers with banners as the Party planned to force a vote on the job cuts.  

In its motion the party has called on the Government to, “work with industry and workers to achieve a transition that secures jobs and primary steelmaking for decades to come; and further calls on the Secretary of State for Business and Trade to report to Parliament by 27 February 2024 with an assessment of the impact on the UK of the loss of primary steel production capabilities.”

Unite the union has said it will do “everything in its armour” to defend steel workers and the steel industry, with union General Secretary Sharon Graham calling Tata’s plan to close the blast furnaces, “simply industrial vandalism on a grand scale.” 

“We have detailed research demonstrating how and why Tata should be expanding UK steel production in line with growing demand, not slashing its workforce,” said Graham. “We have secured funding from a future Labour government that could do this.”

Commenting ahead of the debate today Graham said: “With the right investment, linked to job guarantees, the UK can become the green capital of steel, creating jobs not losing them. Unite will protect workers by all and every means”.

(Image credit: Unite the union)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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