Tata Steel is to cut 400 jobs at its Port Talbot plant in Wales in a bid to “improve competitiveness” in its UK Strip Products business.
The company said that the restructure would allow the UK Strip Products arm to compete in Europe’s “lower market demand era” by reducing costs associated with the 400 jobs.
Karl Koehler, Tata Steel’s European chief executive, said: “Steel demand and prices are likely to be under pressure for some years. Our business rates in the UK are much higher than other EU countries and our UK energy costs will remain uncompetitive until new mitigation measures come into effect.
“These proposed changes are vital if we are to build a competitive future for our Strip Products business in the UK.
Roy Rickhuss, chair of the UK trade unions’ steel committee, countered: “We recognise the company has been dealing with a long-term downturn in European steel markets for more than five years. However we have also expressed our own concerns about possible undermanning within Strip Products and in Port Talbot in particular.
“It is vital that this is not just an exercise to just reduce costs by cutting jobs but takes a considered and objective view as to the numbers required to run and maintain the plant to make steel safely and productively.”
Tata will now embark on a 45-day consultation period with affected employees and their representatives and said it would be “striving” to achieve voluntary redundancies.
The company posted underlying profits of £366m for the year ending 31 March 2014, which included a 75% rise in new product sales in Europe.
In 2012, 500 jobs were axed at Port Talbot as part of a nationwide round of redundancies that totalled 900 workers.