Stephen Kinnock: Steel deal is not just about a job or an industry but a way of life

15th February, 2017 3:19 pm

This is the full statement published by Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, after Tata Steel workers at Port Talbot and around the UK voted to accept a deal to restructure their pension scheme, which is expected to guarantee £1 billion of investment over the next decade.

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for the British steel industry. The industry still faces challenges that must be overcome, but what we have seen today is that the workforce will strain every sinew and make every sacrifice necessary to save our industry. It is about time that the government showed a similar commitment and took the necessary steps to help our industry move from surviving to thriving.

This is not just about a job or an industry, but about a way of life. The Port Talbot steelworks is the beating heart of our economy and community. We are truly forged together as a community by the steel industry, and so to lose the steelworks would have been truly unimaginable.

The workforce have done so much to turn the business around and return it to profitability, since those dark days last March when I travelled out to Mumbai with Community Union, only for Tata Steel to declare their intention to sell the business, unleashing a year of uncertainty. Since then the employees of Tata Steel UK, their families and our steel communities have been through hell.

By overwhelmingly accepting the package in the all-members ballot – which includes changes to the British Steel Pension Scheme that have been a bitter pill to swallow – the workforce have shown their unwavering commitment to securing a sustainable future for the British steel industry. It is now time for Tata and the government to show theirs.

Tata must now uphold their pledge to retain the two blast furnaces in Port Talbot, avoid compulsory redundancies, placing the UK workforce on the same footing as their colleagues in the Netherlands, and bring forward the £1 billion investment plan that will go a long way towards building the competitiveness and productivity of Port Talbot and the downstream sites. If fulfilled, the package voted on today should secure the future for Port Talbot.

Today the workforce and company have shown how far they will go to secure the future of the British steel industry, it is about time the government did the same by announcing a sector deal for Steel, as steel MPs have been urging them to do for almost a year. The APPG for steel’s Steel 2020 report, that I published last month, provides the government with a blueprint for a sector deal, with specific recommendations for reducing energy costs, tackling Chinese dumping, improving procurement rules, supporting skills development and investment in R&D while also securing a good trade deal post-Brexit.

Throughout this process the trade unions, Community, Unite and GMB, have shown an unmatched dedication in standing up for the interests of their members, our community and the industry as a whole. This is a victory for pragmatic trade unionism and has gone a long way to securing the long term future of the British steel industry.

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