Tata Steel is closing its hot strip mill at Llanwern in south Wales for the third time in six years because of “a very challenging business environment”.
Employees at Tata’s Strip Products division have been told that workers will be redeployed elsewhere in the business and the company will be discussing the implications with its contracting companies.
However, the GMB union says 250 agency workers will lose their jobs and has called on the Trades Unions Steel Committee to seek a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the long-term future of the industry.
Dave Hulse, GMB national officer, says: “This is more bad news for the steel industry. It comes on the back of the recent announcement that 720 jobs will go in the Speciality Business. There are genuine and well-founded concerns over the future of the steel industry in the UK.”
Tata is focusing on manufacturing higher-value products so its UK production of hot rolled coil will be at its hot strip mill in Port Talbot.
Some coil processing facilities, including the mill at Llanwern, will be mothballed to be restarted when market conditions are more favourable. Tata says this has happened at Llanwern on two occasions since 2009.
Stuart Wilkie, director of Strip Products UK, said: “Surging, and often unfairly traded, imports have combined with a strong pound to create a very challenging business environment. The changes we have told employees about will reduce our costs and enable us to focus on generating more value from our products, which will improve our competitiveness.
“Tata Steel has invested upwards of £350m to improve the steel industry in Wales in the past five years. In the teeth of a recession we rebuilt a blast furnace, improved the Port Talbot hot strip mill and upgraded the capabilities of our world-class galvanising line at Llanwern.
“We also built new steel processing technology at Llanwern, a site which will continue to specialise in finishing and distributing our steel products. We need to concentrate more on sales of differentiated products to key sectors including automotive, engineering, construction, packaging and consumer goods.”