The Indian-owned steel giant said it was “not feasible or affordable” to adopt a plan put forward by the GMB and Community unions to keep the furnaces open while transitioning to a greener production method.
It will mean 2,800 workers will lose jobs at the site, including 2,500 in the next 18 months. The cuts come despite Tata being promised up to £500m by the UK government in a bid to keep the plant open and produce steel in a greener way.
The GMB said the job losses are a “crushing blow to Port Talbot and UK manufacturing in general”.
Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, national officer for steel, said: “It doesn’t have to be that way – unions provided a realistic, costed alternative that would rule out all compulsory redundancies.”
But she said the plan has “fallen on deaf ears” and steelworkers and their families will now suffer.
The so-called multi-union plan was put forward by the GMB and Community unions under which Tata Steel could have transitioned Port Talbot toward greener steelmaking over a longer timeline.
Under the plan, there would have been no compulsory redundancies and Britain’s domestic steel supply would have been protected – avoiding reliance on imports from countries such as India while the electric arc furnace is built.
In a joint statement, GMB and Community said they were “extremely disappointed” that Tata had rejected the alternative plans they presented. The unions met Tata representatives on Thursday in a last ditch attempt to push the multi-union plan, which they said would secure the future of Port Talbot steelmaking, protect production capacity and avoid compulsory redundancies.
And the two unions lashed out at Unite, which also represents workers at the plant, for “undermining” the plan and “unilaterally campaigning for discredited fantasy solutions”.
And they took aim at Tata and the UK government, saying it is a “disgrace” that they appear “intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country”.
“It’s unbelievable any Government would give a company £500m to throw 3,000 workers on the scrapheap,” the unions said.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds has previously attacked the government over the funding package, saying: “Only the Tories could spend £500m of taxpayers’ money to make thousands of British workers redundant.”
Rishi Sunak said the government is “absolutely committed” to British steelmaking, adding: “I know first of all that it will be a worrying time for everyone affected.”
He said the alternative was the entire plant being closed, leading to 8,000 job losses overall. “But the government worked with the company,” he said.
Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, home of the Port Talbot steelworks, said the losses will be “utterly devastating”.
He said: “There isn’t a single household in my Aberavon constituency that isn’t connected to the steelworks in some way.”
The Port Talbot plant is the largest steelworks in the UK and currently employs 4,000 of the company’s 8,000-strong UK workforce. The move means almost 75 per cent of workers lose their jobs.