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Unite members to fight job losses and blast furnace closures

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AROUND 1,500 Tata steelworkers based in Port Talbot and Newport Llanwern have voted decisively for industrial action over the company’s plan to close its blast furnaces and shed 2,800 jobs.

It is the first time in over 40 years that Port Talbot steelworkers have gone on strike.

The ballot for strike action by members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, closed today with workers voting in favour of industrial action over Tata’s ‘disastrous’ plans. This was despite Tata threatening the workers with the loss of enhanced redundancy pay if they did.

Unite said Tata has other choices after the union secured a commitment from Labour that it will invest £3 billion in UK steel, compared to the £500 million pledged by the current government.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is an historic vote. Not since the 1980s have steel workers voted to strike in this way. This yes vote has happened despite Tata’s threats that if workers took strike action, enhanced redundancy packages would be withdrawn. Unite will be at the forefront of the fight to save steelmaking in Wales. We will support steel by all and every means.

“Other EU countries are transitioning their steel industries while retaining and growing their capacity because they know steel has a bright future – a tenfold increase in demand is predicted in the coming years. In the UK, Tata’s plans and those of the government reflect the short-term thinking of a clapped-out disinterested government marking time to a general election.

“In contrast Labour have done the right thing and committed £3 billion to UK steel following intense discussions with Unite.

“The average age of a Unite Port Talbot worker is 36. Workers and the communities of Port Talbot and Llanwern are looking to the years ahead. They know that with the right choices steelmaking capacity and jobs can be kept and the benefits of growing the industry grasped.

“In the crucial weeks to come, Tata’s workers and Unite will put up picket lines to prevent the company from taking this disastrous path.”

At the Tata plant in the Netherlands, the blast furnaces are being kept open and jobs protected as the company builds an electric arc furnace and invests in hydrogen DRI technology. In Germany, a single plant produces more steel than the whole of the UK industry put together.

Dates for strike action scheduled to cause maximum impact will be announced soon.

Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes said: “Tata has employed everything from bribes to threats to discourage our members from industrial action. They will not be intimidated into standing by while Tata attempts to carry out an act of devastating industrial vandalism against their jobs and communities, inflicting untold harm on the Welsh economy and the UK’s national interest.

“Our members have their union’s absolute support in striking to stop these cuts – Unite is backing them every step of the way.”

Responding to news that Unite steelworkers have voted to strike over job losses at Tata Steel in Port Talbot, Paul Davies MS, Shadow Minister for Economy, said: “Steelworkers in Port Talbot are understandably very concerned about their futures, and our thoughts are with them.

“The Welsh Conservatives are proud that the UK Conservative Government has stepped up to put over half a billion pounds on the table to save steel jobs in Port Talbot.

“It’s time for the Labour Welsh Government, which hasn’t put a penny on the table in years, to scrap the pet projects and support our steelworkers instead.”

Tom Giffard MS and Altaf Hussain MS, Senedd Members for South Wales West, added: “This is clearly a very difficult time for the communities in and around Port Talbot and everything must be done to support everyone impacted.”

Meanwhile steelworkers’ union Community has urged its members to take a stand in support of the steel industry as it launches its ballot for industrial action at Tata Steel UK today.

The union is balloting members in response to Tata’s bad deal for steel, a proposal which would remove the UK’s virgin steelmaking capacity and result in the loss of thousands of steel jobs. The bulk of the job losses would be at Port Talbot and Llanwern, with further losses at other Tata Steel sites across the UK.

Community has highlighted that Tata’s proposals for decarbonisation on the cheap would lead to the closure of Blast Furnace 4 at Port Talbot, the pausing of steel production for three years, the closure of Llanwern’s cold mill, and the building of an untested 3mt Electric Arc Furnace with no secured scrap supply.

Community Union General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Tata’s bad deal for steel would be a hammer blow for our steel industry. It would see vital skilled jobs lost, and dirty steel products imported from overseas. The loss of primary steelmaking capacity would make Britain an outlier on the G20, and would weaken national security in an increasingly uncertain world. That’s to say nothing of the devastation that would be wrought on communities built on steel in South Wales and beyond.

“Tata’s plan is bad for jobs, bad for the environment and bad for Britain. It’s unviable, undeliverable and unacceptable, and our members won’t be bullied or intimidated into accepting it.

“Industrial action is always a last resort for any worker, but our members know that we now have to fight to save our industry, and we must every tool at our disposal to apply pressure on Tata to change course. We are urging our members to vote ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ for industrial action, and we urge the company to look again at our Multi-Union Plan – a credible alternative to Tata’s plan which safeguards primary steelmaking capacity and avoids compulsory redundancies.”

Community’s National Officer for Steel, Alun Davies, said: “Steelworkers now have a chance to be a part of history and to take a stand to protect our vital steel industry. No steel job is safe under Tata’s bad deal for steel, and it’s imperative that we all band together as one at this critical time.

“Future generations will ask what we did in when our jobs and communities were threatened by Tata’s and the Government’s dirty and damaging deal which leaves no steel job safe. We’ll be able to proudly answer them that we did not go gently into the night, that we stood up for our proud industry, and that we took action to forge a future for steel when it mattered most. That’s why we are asking our members to vote ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ in the ballot which opens today.”

The ballot opens today, 11th April, and will run for a month.

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West Wales firm fined £75,000 after man killed by escaped cow

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A WEST WALES company has been fined £75,000 following the death of a 75-year-old man, Huw Evans, who was killed by a cow that had escaped from a livestock market. The incident occurred on November 19, 2022, at Whitland Livestock Market in Carmarthenshire, operated by J.J. Morris Limited.

Father-of-two Mr Evans was crossing the junction at North Road and West Street in Whitland when the cow, which was being auctioned, escaped from the market pen. The animal attacked Mr Evans, knocking him down and trampling him. He suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales, where he succumbed to his injuries six days later.

A worker from J.J. Morris Limited was also injured during an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the cow. The cow eventually made its way towards Whitland Rugby Club and a railway line before being subdued and put down by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the incident and found that J.J. Morris Limited had failed to implement essential physical control measures to prevent cattle from escaping. The HSE concluded that the company’s risk assessment was inadequate, referencing control measures that were not in place at the market.

J.J. Morris Limited, based in Haverfordwest, admitted to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £5,047.55 in costs by Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, June 20.

In court, Mr Evans’ son, Dafydd, expressed his grief, saying: “Dad was my best friend, and I miss him terribly. He was taken from us too soon. Losing dad has had a tremendous effect on both myself and my brother. Because of this incident, dad’s grandsons will never fully know him personally, and he will not see them grow up.”

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Rhys Hughes remarked, “This tragic incident was foreseeable and preventable. The risk posed by cattle escaping from the livestock mart should have been identified, and effective control measures implemented. The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance, which is readily accessible and outlines the requirements to safely manage cattle.”

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Wales international Johnny Williams signs new Scarlets contract

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THE SCARLETS said this week that they are delighted to announce that Wales international centre Johnny Williams has signed a new contract with the club.

The 27-year-old joined the Scarlets from Newcastle Falcons in 2020 and after just four appearances earned his first Wales cap, against Georgia in Llanelli.

A powerful-carrying presence in the Scarlets midfield, he has since made 46 appearances, scoring six tries, including a memorable interception in last season’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Clermont Auvergne.

He has won seven caps for Wales, featuring at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Johnny has been a key member of the side in recent years. He’s a player who is a dynamic carrier, is physical with and without the ball, has a good skill set and has an impact on every game he’s involved in.

“He is an important cog in how we look to play and it’s fantastic that he has agreed a new contract with the club. I know the fans will be thrilled with this news and, along with the likes of Eddie James, Joe Roberts and with Macs Page coming through, we have a lot of talent in that midfield pool for the coming years.”

Johnny Williams said: “I am delighted to have signed a new contract. It has been a frustrating season in terms of results, but I am excited by the potential of the squad we are putting together.

“A lot of young boys have put their hands up and we showed during the final few games of the season the kind of rugby we can produce.

“Pre-season will be around before we know it and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, ready for a big start to next season.”

Johnny is the latest player to recommit to the Scarlets ahead of the 2024-25 campaign, following Tonga lock Sam Lousi, Wales internationals Tom Rogers and Harri O’Connor and back-rowers Dan Davis and Ben Williams.

Scarlets have also strengthened their squad with the addition of hooker Marnus van der Merwe (Toyota Cheetahs), prop Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), full-back Ellis Mee (Nottingham), lock Max Douglas (Toyota Canon Eagles), Wales international prop Henry Thomas (Castres Olympique) and back-three player Blair Murray (Canterbury).

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Tata workers call first strikes in 40 years to stop steel destruction

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HISTORIC strikes in Port Talbot as Labour vows emergency talks with Tata after general election

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will begin all-out indefinite strike action over the company’s plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces.

The strike action, which begins on 8 July, will severely impact Tata’s UK operations. It is the first time in over 40 years that steel workers in the UK have taken strike action.

The escalation in industrial action comes after the workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, began working to rule and an overtime ban on Tuesday (June 17).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“Our members will not standby while this immensely wealthy conglomerate tries to throw Port Talbot and Llanwern on the scrapheap so it can boost its operations abroad. They know South Wales is ideally placed to take advantage of the coming boom in green steel – if the right choices are made.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Labour has called for Tata to halt its plans and wait until after the general election to engage in talks with the government, saying there is a ‘better deal to do’. Labour has pledged £3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite. Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election.

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