LOCAL politicians met with Tata Steel on Wednesday 24 April in a bid to get clarity and assurances over mounting speculation that the potential Tata Steel-ThyssenKrupp joint venture will lead to the sale of Tata Steel’s Trostre Plant.
The meeting was triggered by media reports that European Union’s competition authorities are looking at whether the potential Tata Steel-ThyssenKrupp joint venture will lead to a lack of competition in the steel packaging sector. If the EU investigation concludes that the joint venture would limit competition in the steel packaging sector, then it is possible that packaging businesses, such as the Trostre plant, would have to be sold.
Nia Griffith MP, Stephen Kinnock MP, David Rees AM and a representative of Lee Waters AM raised concerns that any sale of Trostre could have a damaging effect on the local economy and workforce, not least because a significant volume of rolled steel is supplied to Trostre from Port Talbot every year. The possible sale of Trostre therefore raises direct concerns about the Trostre plant itself but poses very serious questions about the knock-on effect for Port Talbot.
On Wednesday 10th April the steel trade unions issued a statement expressing their deepening concern regarding the joint venture. The politicians made it clear that they stand four-square behind the unions’ statement.
In the meeting, the politicians made crystal clear that, while they were still optimistic about the Joint Venture being a success, they cannot support any move that puts local jobs at risk or risks the long-term future of the steel industry in South Wales. Tata Steel agreed to keep MPs informed about how the talks with the EU develop.
Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli said: “This is a very worrying time for everyone at Trostre, and that’s why I was anxious to convey our very real concerns about the joint venture and to stress that if it really does come down to selling off Trostre, then Tata Steel must secure a genuine long-term future for the plant.”
Lee Waters, AM for Llanelli, said: “There is a real will to ensure a competitive future for Trostre whoever the owner is. It’s clear that we need to press the competition authorities to ensure that if they force Trostre to be put up for sale, it is on a firm footing and able to compete in a changing marketplace.”
“We know that Trostre is a profitable plant with a loyal workforce and committed local management. With continued investment there’s no reason that Trostre can’t be a part of Wales’ steel making in the future. So if we do see a sale as part of a merger, we need Tata as the current owner to act responsibly. Making sure the plant can be successful over the long term, and remain a key employer in Llanelli.”
Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon said: “The conversation between Tata Steel, myself and other politicians was constructive and illustrated a deep commitment by all parties towards securing the long-term future of steel-making in South Wales. But it is now up to Tata Steel to deliver on these promises by taking action to ensure production at Port Talbot does not become a victim of the Joint Venture.
“Since 2016, when Tata Steel announced its original plan to potentially sell the Port Talbot works, we have fought alongside steelworkers to ensure the sustainability of the Welsh and British steel industry. When Tata Steel announced a plan to invest in their steel sector in the UK it seemed that we had turned the corner and were moving towards a strong future. It is now imperative that Tata Steel delivers on those promises and expectations through a joint venture strategy that protects jobs and industry in Trostre and Aberavon.”
David Rees, AM for Aberavon said: “Whilst I welcome the intentions of Tata Steel to maintain a sustainable steel industry in Wales, which were reiterated during our discussions, I now wish to see actions that deliver on the promises given of investment into our steel plants. Throughout recent years steelworkers have demonstrated their commitment to the future of steel making, as part of this joint venture we now need the industry to step up.
“The future of Welsh steel making is critical to both the Welsh and UK economies and any proposals that Tata Steel put forward as a remedy to address EU competition commission concerns over the joint venture must not put at risk the remainder of its plants in Wales. In particular, the steel works at Port Talbot must not be weakened by any loss of production and thus put at risk. All parties must work to ensure steel remains a vital component in Welsh & UK economic plans.”