Today, I was interviewed on Good Morning Britain about the emerging news around the future of Tata Steel at Port Talbot.
Well I think it is still too early to declare a victory but things are definitely moving in the right direction. The talks have been going on for months, it’s a brilliant example of pragmatic trade unionism under the great leadership of Roy Rickhuss, the General Secretary of Community Union, who has led his troops and led the workers with great distinction. I think we have also managed in Parliament, as Labour steel MPs, to really hold the Government’s feet to the fire on this, and force them to support the process and Tata steel have also recognised the amazing work that the workforce does. They have broken all production records, they are turning the business around, so as I say we are not out of the woods yet but there are some very positive signals.
SR: What is the deal?
Well the deal will be a package based on Tata Steel committing to long term investment and the workforce committing to certain changes on terms and conditions. There is also a lot of discussion around the pension scheme. It is too early to reveal the detail of those, but those are the key issues that are on the table. And, it is of course like any deal, it’s going to require some compromises on both sides and there is still a lot to be sorted out, I know that, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.
SR: What is the big stumbling block? Is it the pensions? Is it the terms and conditions are being hammered out? Why is there such a big block on sorting out the future of 4,000 people?
Well the discussions around the pension scheme have been big issue. And on the side of the workforce, they have been looking for guarantees of the investment that’s required, particularly the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot. The blast furnaces are the beating heart of the steelworks, it’s about keeping primary steel making in the UK, and they are really vital to the future of the plant. Now Tata Steel has to make guarantees around those and there also has to be a deal on the pension scheme, and I think that is what the heart of deal has been. I think we can’t underestimate what this means for the entire town, every single part of the town, the community, every job, every household, every family and community are connect to the steelworks. And so, with Christmas looming large as you say, we are really hoping for a positive outcome. And it really would be wonderful to get some certainty back into people’s lives. People have been put through hell over the last months but I think when you do look back to where we were six months ago, we have moved forward very, very well indeed. Some time ago we were talking about them selling the business completely and now they are back on board.