London, Jun 21: Around 1,500 steelworkers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern in Wales will begin “all-out indefinite strike action” from July 8 in protest against what they see as Tata Steel's plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces.

Unite the Union said it is the first time in over 40 years that steelworkers in the UK have taken strike action aimed at severely impacting Tata Steel UK's operations. The so-called “escalation” in industrial action comes after members of Unite had already begun working to rule and an overtime ban earlier this week.

“Tata's workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata's workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves,” she said.

The union claims the Opposition Labour Party has called for the Mumbai-headquartered steel major to halt its plans and wait until after the July 4 general election to engage in talks with a newly elected government.

“Labour has pledged GBP 3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite. Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election,” the Unite union added.

Tata Steel has said it was “naturally disappointed” with the move and had been calling on the union to suspend industrial action.

It follows Tata Steel's decision in April to proceed with the closure of two old blast furnaces as part of a GBP 1.25-billion investment to transition to a state-of-the-art Electric Arc Furnace at its Port Talbot steelworks in Wales. Since the plan was announced earlier this year, the company said it had held seven months of formal and informal discussions with the UK trade unions about the major transformation which preserves 5,000 jobs and secures future steel supplies. It is also expected to create more indirect jobs in engineering and construction and reduce CO2 emissions by 5 million tonnes each year.

“By restructuring our UK operations we will be able to sustain the business as we transition to new electric arc furnace technology. We believe we have a very exciting future ahead, providing the high quality, low-CO2 steels that our customers in the UK and overseas are so desperate for,” a Tata Steel spokesperson noted. PTI