Unite’s irresponsible plan would devastate our steel industry

Following the announcement of Tata and the UK Government’s bad deal for steel in September, steel unions Community, GMB and Unite worked with industry experts Syndex on an alternative plan to safeguard the future of Tata Steel operations in South Wales. This multi-union plan was presented to Tata in a constructive meeting on 17th November.

Unite subsequently reneged on their support for the multi-union plan, and have since produced their own document entitled a ‘Workers Plan for Steel’. This plan was presented to the National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee (NTUSCC) this week.

It became clear at the meeting that Unite’s proposals are not credible or coherent. Their plan – which is better described as a series of vague aspirations and a collection of unsubstantiated bullet points – is littered with inaccuracies surrounding current and projected UK and Port Talbot steel output. It totally misrepresents current and future on-site capacity at Port Talbot and downstream sites, and – much like the UK Government-Tata deal – shows a worrying lack of understanding of electric arc furnace steel production and its limitations.

Critically, Unite’s demand for a 3mt EAF to be operational by 2027 would lead to the closure of Blast Furnace 4 before that date and the loss of 3,000 jobs by the end of 2026. Unite’s plan would inevitably lead to mass redundancies – and Unite’s expert at the committee meeting was unable to present any argument or evidence to the contrary.

The National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee (NTUSCC) will clearly not be endorsing Unite’s plan, and it will therefore not form part of negotiations with Tata. Indeed, the company has made it absolutely clear they will not listen to proposals presented by Unite acting alone.

We know that many of Unite’s steel members and reps would have been disappointed by their union’s decision to walk away from the agreed multi-union plan, and they will feel all the more let down now that the details of the Unite plan are in the public domain – a plan which seems totally divorced from the reality of steelmaking in South Wales.

Unite owes it to those members to reconsider their deeply irresponsible, dangerous and destructive strategy, and to re-commit to the multi-union steel plan. 

Our message to Unite’s leadership is a simple one. This is a moment of gravity for our industry: real jobs are at stake. No more distractions and fantasy politics – we need to work together to save our steel industry. The only way to do this is to get back on board with the multi-union steel plan – the only credible strategy to secure the future of steelmaking in Port Talbot and across South Wales.

Click here for an in-depth summary of the problems with Unite’s proposals. Yesterday we wrote to the General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, advising that Unite’s plan was unworkable and imploring her, again, to get back on board to support the multi-union position. You can read that email here.

You can read the multi-union plan for steel here.

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Community is proud to be the leading trade union for steelworkers across the UK. We are passionate about the industry’s future, and together with our members, we are fighting for a just transition that works for steelworkers, and to secure a prosperous future for the UK steel industry, steelworkers and their communities.

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