Steelworkers remain uncertain about future in spite of government support

Business

At the main roundabout outside Port Talbot steelworks, union reps and those on their lunch break gathered holding a banner: “British Steel – Back It or Lose It!”

Some 4,000 are employed by Tata Steel here, more than 12% of the town’s entire population.

One of them is Greg Coggins, who has worked for Tata in South Wales for 14 years.

Wearing a hard hat and dirty overalls – he told me just how vital this place is to the community.

Greg Coggins

“Without the steelworks behind us here – there is no Port Talbot,” he said.

“This town, this area, south Wales, relies on this place, not just this place, there are so many jobs… so many jobs.”

He welcomed the government’s £500m package – but said there is uncertainty among his co-workers about what going green means for their jobs.

“In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis at the moment, people are worried,” he said.

“There’s so many people working here, it’s not just employees inside, it’s the people supporting us, delivery drivers, there’d be such a knock-on effect if anything was to happen to this plant.”

Barrie Evans

Government plan not as green as it sounds – union rep

His union rep, Barrie Evans, said the government’s plan to change coal-burning furnaces to electric ones is not as green as it sounds because other steel would then need to be imported.

“We all understand we’ve got to decarbonise and go green but unfortunately at the cost of jobs – we can’t support that,” he said.

“It’s not going green if we’re importing coils from China, halfway round the ocean, on a diesel ship.”

Read more:
Analysis: Tata Steel rescue a reminder UK needs an industrial strategy

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Why is greener steel such a big issue?

The workers here are paid well, and much of that money flows into the town a mile up the road.

On the high street, reporters were trying to gauge reaction to today’s announcement from locals who are all too used to uncertainty behind their biggest employer.

Carol Rock

Concerns over job losses

We met Carol Rock having coffee outside Cafe Fresco – she’s lived here all her life and worries about what big job losses would mean.

She said: “It’s essential to Port Talbot because it would be like a ghost town, there’d be nothing here – only the works we’ve got. Where they going to get jobs?”

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Her friend Jeanette added: “I think things would close down very, very quickly.”

If there were big job losses, I asked. “Yes, unfortunately.”

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