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Tata Steel to axe up to 2,800 UK jobs

(Sharecast News) - Tata Steel is to axe 2,800 jobs across the UK as part of a major restructuring of its British operations, it was confirmed on Friday.

The bulk of the redundancies are expected to be at its steelworks in Port Talbot.

In a statement, Tata - part of Indian conglomerate Tata Group - said its restructuring plans would "reverse more than a decade of losses, and transition from the legacy blast furnaces to a more sustainable, green steel business".

GMB and Community called the decision "an absolute disgrace", however, and said Tata and the UK government were "intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country".

Unite said it was ready to use "everything in its armoury to defend steel workers and our steel industry".

The future of Port Talbot, the UK's largest steelworks, has long been uncertain. The sprawling plant has two aging coal-powered blast furnaces and is the UK's largest single carbon emitter.

Last September, the UK government announced it would provide Tata with a £500m grant to help it switch to greener forms of steelmaking. Tata is to provide a further £750m.

But unions warned at the time that thousands of jobs would likely be affected as a result. Port Talbot employs around 4,000 people and is the region's biggest employer.

Under Tata's restructuring plans, the plant's two blast furnaces and coke ovens will close this year, although the hot strip mill will remain operational during the transition period and beyond.

It will then invest £1.25bn in lower emission electric arc furnace technology and other asset upgrades.

The overhaul will reduce Tata's UK CO2 emissions by 5m tonnes per year, and the country's by 1.5%, the firm said.

But thousands of jobs will also be lost. Of the 2,800 employees expected to be potentially affected, around 2,500 roles will be impacted over the next 18 months.

Unions, who met with company officials on Thursday, had wanted Tata to maintain one of the two blast furnaces.

TV Narendran, Tata Steel's chief executive, said: "The course we are putting forward is difficult, but we believe it is the right one.

"We must transform at pace to build a sustainable business in the UK for the long-term."

Roy Rickhuss, Community general secretary, said: "Our credible multi-union plan lays out a better path to protect jobs, the economy and our environment.

"In [Thursday's] meeting, senior officials from Tata acknowledged that our plan was serious and deliverable, but they would not commit to the additional funding required to make it a reality.

"We will now consult with our members, and all options are on the table going forward."

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: "The government needs to invest in British industry to defend workers and communities as well as our national base and national security.

"Instead, they are giving Tata hundreds of millions of pounds to fund their plans to cut jobs, cut capacity and give more business to their plants in other countries, like India and the Netherlands. How is that acceptable?"

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