It's 'A Dark Day for Welsh Workers' but Tata's Plans Show Confidence in Wales; 500 PORT TALBOT MANAGEMENT ROLES GO IN UK RESTRUCTURING

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Byline: RHODRI EVANS Assistant Business Editor

STEELMAKER Tata yesterday announced plans to restructure its UK operations, in a move that will lead to 580 job losses in Wales.

The Indian-owned business is set to cut 900 jobs across the UK, with nearly two thirds of them in South Wales.

Another 155 jobs will go in Yorkshire, 120 in the West Midlands and 30 in Teesside. The proposals include the restructuring of management and administrative functions at Tata Steel's Port Talbot-based production hub in a move that would lead to the loss of around 500 jobs, primarily in management roles.

The company is also planning to close its sites at Tafarnaubach and Crosskeys in the South Wales Valleys.

Production from Tafarnaubach will be relocated to other sites, while the Colorsteels operation will be relocated to Tata Steel's site at Shotton, in Flintshire.

Under the proposals a total of 76 jobs will be lost at Tafarnaubach and a further 87 at Crosskeys.

The company is also planning to rationalise its steel finishing and processing operation in the UK.

Its services will be concentrated at six UK distribution and processing hubs, which will benefit from PS22m of new investment, but will result in the closure of 12 sites.

Among the sites identified for closure as part of that move are the distribution centre in Caldicot, which employs 55, a sheet centre and service centre at Llanwern employing 28 and 19 respectively, and a metals centre at Port Talbot, which employs four.

However, a new service centre will be created at Llanwern, employing 65 staff.

A statutory 90-day consultation has now begun with staff. There was one element of better news, with the announcement that the company is to restart Port Talbot's blast furnace No.4 early next year.

The blast furnace has been rebuilt as part of a PS250m investment programme at the Margam works and will also lead to the restarting of the hot strip mill at the company's Llanwern site in Newport.

The Llanwern site will benefit from the establishment of a new heavy gauge decoiling facility, and as a result 120 new posts will be created.

Dr Karl Kohler, CEO of Tata Steel's European operations, said the move was needed to enable the company to succeed in the challenging economic climate.

"Today's proposals are part of a strategy to transform ourselves into an 'all-weather' steel producer, capable of succeeding in difficult economic conditions," he said.

"These restructuring proposals will help make our business more successful and sustainable, but the job losses are regrettable and I know this will be a difficult and unsettling time for the employees and their families affected.

"We will be working with our trade unions and government at a national and local level to ensure we provide them with as much assistance and support as possible.

"In addition, our subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise will be looking at how it can provide more support to local steel communities and stimulate new jobs following today's announcement.

"We will strengthen this work with a further PS650,000 to help them create new jobs in affected areas. UK Steel Enterprise has teams in all the affected locations who, for almost four decades, have helped to regenerate local economies and create 70,000 new jobs in the UK. "We will do everything we can to reduce the impact of the proposals on employees and, where possible, we will look to achieve job losses through voluntary redundancies." Turning to the plans to restart the No.4 blast furnace, which has been rebuilt at a cost of PS185m, he added: "The restarting of the Port Talbot furnace will improve our competitiveness and allow us to enjoy the benefits of a modern, state-ofthe-art furnace, which, combined with the planned downstream investments, will also enable us to improve customer service. …