TATA Steel's Orb plant in Newport is to close, with up to 380 jobs at risk, it has been announced.

The steelmaker had been attempting to sell five of its European operations, but had been unable to find a buyer for three, including Orb Electrical Steels in Newport.

Henrik Adam, chief executive of Tata’s European operations, said: “Today’s proposal will be sad news for colleagues at Orb in South Wales.


"This is necessary, enabling us to focus our resources, including investment, on our core business and markets, helping us build a long-term sustainable future in Europe.”

— 'Considerable challenges'

The organisation said the Orb plant has been loss-making for several years, and converting the site to create steels for future electric vehicle production would cost more than £50 million.

South Wales Argus: The Tata steelworks facility in Newport.The Tata steelworks facility in Newport.

Mr Adam added: “Continuing to fund substantial losses at Orb Electrical Steels is not sustainable at a time when the European steel industry is facing considerable challenges. We saw no prospects of returning the Orb business to profitability in the coming years.

“I recognise how difficult this news will be for all those affected and we will work very hard to support them.”

The company has said affected employees will be offered jobs at other sites "where possible".

— 'Devastating news'

Newport East's MP Jessica Morden described the closure as "devastating news for the highly skilled workforce and their families".

She added: "What is particularly tragic is that this the only UK plant with the potential to produce electric steels for motors and with investment, vision and government backing this could be the key part of the supply chain for electric vehicles.

"We have called for an industrial strategy and this shows why we need it. 

"This is a strategically important business that could be underpinning the UK automotive industry and so I will be contacting UK and Welsh government ministers urging them to do all they can to help."

Wales' economy minister Ken Skates said: “This is extremely disappointing news. I have spoken with TATA and made clear the importance of avoiding compulsory redundancies where possible. The Welsh Government will now do everything it can to support individuals, the community and the supply chain affected by this announcement.

“The steel industry is of great importance to the Welsh economy and of national strategic significance to the UK as a whole.   We have worked very closely with Tata Steel for many years across all its Welsh sites and will continue to do so. Today’s news clearly demonstrates the fragility of the global steel market and the UK Government must now step up and broaden its approach to supporting the industry, including its supply chain, across the whole of the UK.

“Our ReAct programme stands ready and has a strong track record of supporting people impacted by job losses.  We will make this support available as soon as possible alongside coordinated support from local partners and organisations.”

Newport city councillor Roger Jeavons (Lliswerry ward) highlighted the impact the site's closure would have on many local families who, like his own, had connections to the steelworks for many generations.

"It's just a tragedy, after all these years of growth in Lliswerry, that we come along to what could be the end, and the loss, of 380 jobs," Cllr Jeavons said.

"It's devastating and I hope Tata will do everything possible to save these 380 jobs."

Jayne Bryant, AM for Newport West, said the announcment was "undoubtedly hugely disappointing news to both the workforce and their families and to Newport". 

She added: "It is evident that an industrial strategy must be put in place and I will be working closely with my colleagues Jessica Morden MP, John Griffiths AM and Ruth Jones MP to make sure that all possible support is found.”

— Calls for government intervention

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the steelworkers' trade union Community said there had been "no consultation about this proposal either at UK or European level, and company management should hang their heads in shame in the way [the closure] has come about."

Mr Rickhuss added: “We are opposed to plant closures and compulsory redundancies and therefore the company should be aware that we will be considering all options, up to and including industrial action, in defence of our members’ livelihoods.

“We also call on the government to intervene. Ministers were closely involved in securing commitments from Tata over the future of the business. At a time when the government wants to decarbonise the economy and support a switch to electric vehicles, losing the UK’s only producer of electrical steels would be a grave error.”

South East Wales AM Delyth Jewell also called for a government rescue bid.

She said: “This is terrible news for the committed steelworkers and my heart goes out to all affected by today’s announcement.

“The Welsh Government needs to do all it can to try to save these jobs and should consider taking the plant into public ownership, as the specialist products the plant produces could play an important role in the development of the strategically vital renewables sector in Wales, including electric vehicle production."

Ms Jewell added: "While I understand that workers will be offered a chance to relocate, this simply isn’t possible for many who have deep roots in the area and lack the financial means to uproot their lives at short notice.

“There are questions to be raised once again about how the Welsh Government appears to have been caught unawares by an announcement of job losses within the manufacturing sector in Wales, and I will be asking for an explanation from the Economy Minister about what he’s been doing to try to protect these jobs over the past few months.”

Mark Reckless AM said he was "disappointed to receive news today from Tata of 380 job losses at Orb Electrical Steels in Newport".

He added: "We call on Tata and Welsh Government to help the affected workers as they look for new jobs and our thoughts are with them and their families at this time.”

— 'Another disaster for manufacturing'

Ross Murdoch, national officer for the GMB trade union, said: “This is a bombshell for the people of Newport and yet another disaster for UK manufacturing.

“GMB will fight hard for every members’ job in the UK steel industry.

“Until this Government puts jobs and industry before internal party bickering over Brexit - we are likely to see more proud British industries go to the wall.”

South East Wales AM David Rowlands, of the Brexit Party, suggested the European Union was to blame for the Newport plant's demise.

"This closure is a direct result of cheap steel being allowed into the EU," he said. "In Wales we have been dealt blow after blow ,with our once great steel industry slowly choked to death by these cheap imports.

"The effect has been like this recent announcement - devastating."

Wales' shadow business minister, Russell George AM, said it was "incredibly disappointing to hear of yet another case of potential job losses in South Wales".

He added: "I urge the government to ascertain any other contributing factors in order to stop this spread of business strife in this busy and prosperous part of Wales."