Tata urged to offer long-term certainty to Port Talbot steel workers
Indian steel giant Tata has been advised not to allow its biggest UK plant to ‘wither on the vine’ as speculation mounts that the company is to announce the sale of part of its assets.
The firm looks set to confirm that it will sell its speciality steel business, which employs 2,000 workers in Hartlepool, Rotherham and Stocksbridge.
The move would increase uncertainty among workers in the rest of Tata's operations, including the country's biggest steel plant at Port Talbot in South Wales.
Tata has been assessing several bids for weeks after announcing earlier this year that it was selling its loss-making UK business.
Speculation has been growing that it will sell off its speciality steel business but will continue to assess options for the rest of its plants.
Unite warned Tata against ‘walking away’ from Port Talbot in a few years' time after leaving it to ‘wither on the vine’.
National officer Harish Patel said: "The cloud of uncertainty over steelworkers' heads needs to be lifted by Tata giving binding commitments about its long-term intentions regarding Port Talbot and its UK strips business.
"If Tata is to retain the goodwill of the workforce, then its board needs to give guarantees over Port Talbot and assurances that it won't conduct a fire sale of its speciality and tubes business.
"Port Talbot and the UK strips business can have a viable and profitable long-term future with the right investment.
"They have a world-class workforce making world-beating products.
"Unite will be pressing Tata for clarity over its intentions and ensuring it sticks to its promise to be a responsible seller and act ethically."
The sale of the speciality steel business is expected to be announced after a meeting in Mumbai, India later today, in which Business Secretary Sajid Javid will meet senior Tata board members to discuss future trade links following the UK vote to leave the EU.
He said: "Following the referendum result, my absolute priority is making sure the UK has the tools it needs to continue to compete on the global stage.
"That is why I am in India today to launch these initial trade discussions.
"There is a strong bilateral trade relationship between our two countries and I am determined that we build on this.
"Over the coming months, I will be conducting similar meetings with other key trade partners, outlining the government's vision for what the UK's future trade relationship might look like."
Sanjeev Gupta, the chairman of the Liberty House Group, which bought some of Tata Steel’s assets earlier in the year, such as Dalzell and Clydebridge steel plants in Lanarkshire, believes that the future of Britain’s steel industry lies in investing in new technologies to increase profitability such as facilities to process scrap metal.
In addition, last month the Lanarkshire plants were fitted out with equipment to manufacture wind towers and large-scale tubular steel fabrication.