Thousands of small business jobs under threat in steel crisis


Port Talbot steelworks PICTURE: Chris Shaw/Creative Commons


Thousands of jobs in small businesses could be at risk alongside the threat to the livelihoods of more than 4,000 steel workers if Tata closes its Port Talbot plant.

Local councillor Tony Taylor said there are more than 4,000 jobs directly under threat inside the town’s steelworks, the UK’s largest. He said there are also 3,000 contractor jobs and 6,000 in the supply chain who rely on steel plants as a source of work. Their jobs are also under threat if Indian firm Tata Steel closes its plants while it looks for a buyer, he added.

Tata says the Port Talbot site alone is losing £1m a day, highlighting high energy costs and cheap steel subsidised by the Chinese government flooding the market as major problems.

Taking into account potential knock-on job losses in other small businesses like local shops as the local economy contracts from such a shock, Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

The councillor called for short-term action to stop the closure or the mothballing of plants: “In the short term, we need the Welsh Government and the Westminster government to work in partnership to get in a short-term impetus into the plant so a new buyer can invest in confidence and ensure there’s a sustainable steel industry left for the future generations.”

There are likely to be thousands of contractor and other small business jobs facing a similar threat at Tata’s other remaining UK sites including Llanwern near Newport, Rotherham, Corby, Trostre at Llanelli, and Shotton in North Wales. In total, Tata directly employs more than 15,000 people in the UK.

Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones talked to company bosses to press for breathing space for the workers today. Tata has warned that it needs to find a buyer in weeks, rather than months, for its plants. A worker-management buyout would need an investment of £300 million, experts say, and government support short of nationalisation could fall foul of EC rules.

Prime Minister David Cameron staged an emergency meeting in Downing Street today amid growing pressure from opposition parties and unions for government action to keep the sites open and save the British steel industry. Unions and opposition politicians, including Neath MP Stephen Kinnock who travelled with union leaders to Mumbai in a last-ditch bid to save the site, criticised the government.Some claimed the government is in “chaos” in the face of the threat, and the Labour leadership called for nationalisation as a short-term measure to prevent mass unemployment in Port Talbot.

Mr Cameron said he did not believe nationalisation was the answer, and said the government was doing “everything it can” but warned there are “no guarantees of success”. He added the threat to the UK plants was of “deep concern” and that the steel jobs were “vital” to their communities.

Chancellor George Osborne told reporters the government is taking action to cut energy prices and to make sure British steel is used in major UK construction projects.

A petition lodged by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding Parliament be recalled to debate the crisis reached the 100,000 signature level needed to trigger a Westminster debate today. As this blogpost  was written, it had attracted more than 126,000 signatures. A date for a debate was awaited. See the petition here.




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