CALLS for an Assembly recall are growing today after Tata Steel confirmed it was considering selling off its entire UK operation.
Tata made the announcement last night, saying it was exploring all options including what it called ‘divestment’, selling up in the UK.
In a statement, the Tata board said it had “noted with deep concern the deteriorating financial performance of the UK subsidiary in the last twelve months”.
Global steel demand had remained “muted”, while trading conditions in the UK and Europe had “deteriorated”, said the company.
It went on to say that a “unanimous conclusion” had been reached that a transformation plan put forward was “unaffordable”.
It added: “Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the Board of its European holding company… to explore all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts.”
The announcement confirms fears for thousands of jobs across the UK, including 3,500 in Port Talbot.
And the news is serious enough for the Assembly to return to business to debate the situation, according to some.
AMs are on an Easter break and are not expected to return to business until after polling day in this year’s Assembly elections.
Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood both backed the idea of recalling the assembly.
Mr Davies said it was “quite clear that the assembly must now be recalled prior to dissolution”, adding that “all parties will have to work together” to ensure a successful sale and “a sustainable future for the industry in Wales”.
And Leanne Wood said: “If it proves to be true that Tata intends to sell the Port Talbot steelworks, politicians from all parties and from within the Welsh and UK governments must work together to secure the future of the plant.”
Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler would have to approve any recall.
And it would need to happen before April 6 when members are no longer officially AMs due to the run-up to the elections.
The announcement on the future of Tata Steel in the UK followed a meeting of the company’s board in Mumbai.
But, earlier, Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock told the Evening Post a sell-off of the Port Talbot plant was likely.
Unions had put forward a plan to save the plant.
Today, in a joint statement, the Welsh and UK governments said they were both “working tirelessly to look at all viable options to keep a strong British steel industry at the heart of our manufacturing base”.
Tata had already announced plans to cut 1,000 jobs – 750 at Port Talbot – in January this year.
But First Minister Carwyn Jones said “no stone will be left unturned” in supporting Welsh steelworkers and their families, following the latest news.
“Whilst we have serious disagreements with the UK Government on many issues at the moment, we will work with them, and anyone else, who can help to secure a sustainable steel industry in Wales,” said Mr Jones.
“Wales has faced up to tough times before, and we will always stand in solidarity with our brilliant, skilled workforce and with our communities.”
Mr Kinnock also pledged to help in the battle for the future of the Port Talbot plant.
He said: “The fundamental point is that the fight is always on to ensure that we continue to make steel in Port Talbot.
“If that’s under the ownership of Tata Steel or another company will remain to be seen.”
Roy Rickhuss, General secretary of the Community union, who was in Mumbai with Mr Kinnock, said: “We believe we have got a position that is better than we expected, in regards to the strong indication and rumours before we came here that the potential closure not just of Port Talbot but potentially of other assets within the UK is not being considered.
“It’s not an ideal situation. Nobody is saying it’s what we wanted. What we wanted was for the Tata board to buy into the turn-around plan.”