24/7 Space News
'I need to fight': UK steelworkers in fear as less pollution means less jobs
'I need to fight': UK steelworkers in fear as less pollution means less jobs
By Veronique DUPONT
Port Talbot, United Kingdom (AFP) Feb 28, 2024

In the dim light of a pub in the steel-producing Welsh town of Port Talbot, Jason Wyatt sips his beer, his voice laden with worry.

Last month, Tata Steel announced it would close its last two blast furnaces to make way for a less polluting electric arc furnace that requires far less labour.

For Wyatt, an electrical engineer at Tata Steel's foundry, the news that about 2,000 jobs would be cut from the 4,000 at the massive site was a crippling blow.

The news marked a spectacular fall from grace for Port Talbot, which was once one of the key centres of Britain's industrial revolution.

The sprawling steelworks, which are more than a century old, employed about 18,000 people at their peak in the 1960s.

- 'Morale is very low' -

"I don't know if I still have my job. And I'm just one among 4,000," Wyatt told AFP.

"Morale is very low and people are very upset."

Tata Steel claims to be losing one million pounds ($1.25 million) a day at Port Talbot. It said it had to align with the UK's carbon neutrality goals.

Like other steelmakers in Europe, the Indian conglomerate plans to transition from coal-dependent blast furnaces to an electric arc furnace that produces less pollution, uses recycled scrap -- and fewer workers.

While unions, employees and local politicians acknowledge the need for greener steel production, they oppose closing the existing furnaces within 18 months, before the electric furnace is operational.

The halt in production would mean abrupt job losses.

Like his colleagues, Wyatt is ready to "fight" for his job.

"There are no similar jobs elsewhere in the region," Wyatt, who proudly wears union badges on his coat next to the Tata Steel logo, told AFP.

"I'm in my 40s. I've got the mortgage, I've got the young kids. I need to provide for them ... I need to fight for that."

As negotiations with Tata's management continue, workers and unions are marching across the country to garner public and parliamentary support.

The protest comes as Britain prepares to hold an election this year that polls say the opposition Labour Party will win.

Luke Davies, owner of the HeadQuarters hair salon, has spent his entire life in Port Talbot, where not so long ago, "there was everything one could need", including a beautiful beach, mountains and shops.

He already feels the impact of the looming closure of the furnaces.

"People are waiting a bit longer between appointments," he said as he applied highlights to a customer's hair.

"There are shops closing around us.

"I just worry where people are going to find jobs when they lost jobs in the steelworks."

- 'Other countries do better' -

David Rees, a Welsh Labour parliamentarian, is dismayed that the British government did not link GBP 500 million ($635 million) in funding provided to Tata -- which has invested GBP 1.25 billion in the project -- to job guarantees.

"We see other countries doing better," Rees said in front of the complex with its smoking chimneys.

"Germany, France, the United States, are moving to electric arc furnaces without closing their blast furnaces."

Welsh people have not forgotten the closure 20 years ago of the Ebbw Vale foundry in the centre of their province, plunging the once prosperous town into poverty.

In the United States, the transition to "green" steel has largely been completed, and employment has stabilised.

In France, unions are demanding job guarantees from ArcelorMittal in exchange for public aid to decarbonise its sites.

In Scunthorpe, northern England, British Steel also plans to close its blast furnaces and switch to electric arc furnaces, with a total investment of GBP 1.25 billion. London is expected to contribute GBP 300 million.

- 'Devastating' for the community -

Charlotte Brumpton-Childs, spokesperson for the GMB union, said that losing half of the Port Talbot steel mill's jobs would be "devastating" for the local community.

She criticises a "long decline, between Chinese steel dumping and higher energy costs here than in our European neighbours".

On Scunthorpe's high street, a poster outside the Lucky Tuppence candy store urges passersby to "support steelworkers".

Co-owner Steve Davies remembers "a boom town". Now, major brands have left, and "young people who have gone to university never come back".

Gareth Davies, a professor at Swansea University, believes Britain's exit from the European Union "clearly played a role" in the sector's difficulties, complicating exports and contributing to high inflation.

Port Talbot, like the Scunthorpe region, voted for Brexit in 2016.

But industrialists and unions are hopeful for the future of steel in the UK.

Frank Aaskov, from the UK Steel Association, hailed the "biggest investment in the sector in the last 20 years" as a "clear sign that steel will remain in the UK for a long time".


Tata Steel

Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
EU lawmakers adopt tougher rules on environmental crimes
Strasbourg, France (AFP) Feb 27, 2024
EU lawmakers on Tuesday approved new rules to fight environmental crimes - from trafficking timber to dumping toxic waste - by doubling the number of offences that could lead to fines or imprisonment. One of the main sources of income for organised crime, environmental crime has been surging worldwide by between five and seven percent per year, according to EU data. The European Union hopes that the stricter rules will deter would-be offenders, while harmonising penalties across the bloc - in ... read more

Under pressure - space exploration in our time

SpaceX set to launch new crew to ISS

Virgin Galactic Marks 11th Spaceflight with Full Passenger Manifest

International Crew Prepares for Launch to ISS Aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon

MITRE and MDC team up to advance at Midland Spaceport

China plans record 100 space launches in 2024, including lunar and station missions

Stratolaunch conducts second captive carry flight of Hypersonic Vehicle TA-1

Blue Origin prepares New Glenn for maiden launch

Three years later, search for life on Mars continues

Mining Into Mineral King: Sols 4110-4111

Confirmation of ancient lake on Mars builds excitement for Perseverance rover's samples

NASA helicopter's mission ends after three years on Mars

Chang'e 6 and new rockets highlight China's packed 2024 space agenda

Long March 5 deploys Communication Technology Demonstrator 11 satellite

BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

LeoLabs names Tony Frazier as CEO to expand its role in global space operations

Virgin Voyages Sets Sail with the Fastest Internet at Sea

From City Streets to Remote Peaks: Thuraya's SKYPHONE Promises Global Connectivity

UK Space Industry to tackle skills shortage and defence roles at Space-Comm Expo

Scientists at uOttawa reveal how light behaves in formless solids

Rice lab finds better way to handle hard-to-recycle material

World resource extraction could surge 60% by 2060, UN warns

China opens first simulated environment for space research

UC Irvine-led team unravels mysteries of planet formation and evolution in distant solar system

NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor in Small Exoplanet's Atmosphere

Passing Stars Altered Orbital Changes in Earth, Other Planets

Scientists Unveil Free-Floating Planetary Giants in the Orion Nebula

New moons of Uranus and Neptune announced

NASA's New Horizons Detects Dusty Hints of Extended Kuiper Belt

NASA invites public to dive into Juno's Spectacular Images of Io

Europa Clipper gears up with full instrument suite onboard

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.