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Labour reiterates call for Tata to keep furnaces running until after election

Senior Labour figures have called for Tata to keep blast furnaces running during its transition to greener steel production.

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Labour has reiterated calls for Tata Steel to wait for the party to come into government before shutting off blast furnaces which will cost thousands of jobs in south Wales.

Tata Steel is moving to a greener form of production, using an electric arc furnace – which needs fewer workers, leaving jobs at risk.

On a visit to Tata Steel in Port Talbot, south Wales, on Monday, senior Labour figures called for the company to delay shutting off all the blast furnaces.

Instead, they are urging the company to wait for a possible Labour government next month so fresh talks can take place, with hopes the firm adopts a union plan for one furnace to be left on while a transition to green steel production takes place.

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First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething speaks with candidate for Aberavon Stephen Kinnock (Ben Birchall/PA)

The visit comes as steelworkers said they would ban overtime as part of industrial action in protest at the job loses starting on June 18.

Jo Stevens, the shadow Welsh secretary, said she was “convinced” that progress could be made.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think there could be some sort of deal,” she said.

“What we have said to Tata all along is please don’t make any irreversible decisions before the General Election.

“And that means not switching off the blast furnace, which is due to happen at the end of this month.

“We want them to look at the union plan again, we want to talk to them, they know that we have our green steel fund ready to go, that will be there to support Welsh steel workers and steel workers across the United Kingdom to ensure a smooth transition to decarbonised steel.”

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Labour leader, insisted the General Election in July had “changed the opportunity”.

He said the company believed there was going to be an autumn election, but there was now a “very real prospect” of a Labour government “with a different agenda”.

He said: “This is about the future of all of us in Wales and Britain and it’s right that we are here today.”

Mr Gething said he expected the company – which unions say has threatened to cut redundancy pay in response to proposed in industrial action – to negotiate “in good faith” with Labour and the trade unions.

He added: “Suggesting that there would be a reduction in the redundancy offer is not something that my government could support, I will be clear with the company when I meet them shortly.”

Tata has insisted the reduction in roles, which was first announced in January, is necessary to stop the company from making £1 million a day in losses.

The company also insisted it is not safe or financially practicable to build an electric arc furnace while old blast furnaces are still operational.

A spokesman previously said: “The enhanced package will remain in place unless industrial action is taken, in which case it would revert to our standard terms.

“In light of the ongoing impact on the business, the potential for further disruption, and in order to ensure safe and stable operations, we are now considering bringing forward the dates for the closure of blast furnace 5 and the winding down of operations across the wider heavy-end.”

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