The recent decision by TATA to close down its two blast furnaces at Port Talbot steel works over the coming year, with loss of around 2,800 jobs, is a devastating blow to both the workers and to their wider community.
What is happening in Port Tabot is precisely the “cliff edge” of sudden mass redundancies, the threat of which is often ruthlessly weaponised to create opposition to climate action
But despite the rhetoric about decarbonisation, TATA’s decision to shut down the blast furnaces ahead of starting production with an electric arc furnace is based purely on financial not climate considerations.
Their decision not to install the additional technologies needed for low carbon primary steel production (as opposed to recycling) is not a decarbonisation plan, but a business plan.
In contrast to this disaster, a worker-led, socially just transition plan would determine the most effective way to decarbonise across the economy, whilst meeting the immense labour needs of new or growing sectors vital to the transition.
It would do this whilst fully protecting the pay and conditions of all workers affected by technological transitions, whether work is currently available for them or not, as well as during any re-training.
The level of coordination and planning required across numerous sectors is not possible within the context of private companies vying for markets, but implies a need for public ownership of key industries, with full worker participation in planning, and delivery overseen by a public National Climate Service.
Below is a motion of support for the TATA steelworkers written for urgent adoption by union branches, regions and trades councils.