Orb works closure is failure of industrial strategy

The Orb Works in Newport closed for the last time today (3 July). The final shift left the works at 1pm. Local politicians gathered alongside former workers and Community reps and officers to mark the occasion and show solidarity with the workforce.

MPs and Assembly members mark the Orb Works closure

MPs and Assembly members mark the Orb Works closure

The closure brings to an end a proud history of electrical steel production at the Orb. For the moment it means the UK no longer has the capability to make electrical steels.

Production finished at the end of 2019 but the site was mothballed and has been maintained up until today.

Alasdair McDiarmid, Operations Director for Community, said:

“This is a sad day for Newport and the steel industry but most of all for the incredibly committed and passionate workforce.

“This is a business that should never have been allowed to close. There was a viable alternative plan that was better for the steelworkers, the local community and our future economy. Today represents a major failure of industrial strategy.

“As we have argued Orb should be an integral part of a new supply chain for electric vehicles and the failure of government to grasp this opportunity is set to cost our economy more than £1bn over the next decade. Lessons must be learnt to ensure these failings are not repeated.”

The Orb was earmarked for closure by Tata Steel in September 2019. The union mounted a campaign to Save Orb Steel, including a march through the centre of Newport.

Community made the case to government that the Orb works should have a future as the UK economy decarbonises and there would be increased demand for electrical steels.

Ultimately, neither a new owner nor government support was forthcoming.

Mark Spencer, who was a Community rep on the site and worked there for 38 years, told the South Wales Argus:

“While the plant is there and is not being used there is always hope of recovery, and I will keep that hope with me.”

Community ensured there was an extensive consultation period to look for alternatives, put a plan to government to secure the future of the site and also held Tata to the agreement that there would be no compulsory redundancies. Former Orb workers have taken up positions at other Tata sites.

Today the union is also reminded of Paul Horton, who sadly passsed away at the start of the year just after his final shift at the Orb and had spent the previous months at the forefront of Community’s campaign.

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