TODAY, Saturday, steelworkers from Newport will be joined by supporters from around the UK to march through the city in opposition to the planned closure of the Orb Electrical Steels plant.

Owners Tata Steel announced in September that it would close Orb, which the firm said had been loss-making for several years.

But steelworkers and supporters say the facility is key to the future manufacture of electrical steels in products like low-emissions vehicles. In the UK, they say, the Newport plant is uniquely equipped to make these materials.


Ahead of Saturday's march, two Orb employees and representatives for the Community trade union spoke to the Argus about why they were taking part.

"We want to highlight to the general public – in Newport and the rest of the country – and Tata that we believe there's a future at the works due to the evolution of electrical cars," assistant section manager Paul Horton said.

"There'd be an endless market. The only issue is that the next two years would be quiet, but after that [demand] would be off the scale."

Brett Williams, union branch secretary, added: "The electrification of the world is coming and we're the only company in the UK that can make electrical steels.

"How can we get rid of it? All we need is investment."

Community's steel consultants, Syndex, has produced a report offering a potential way for the Orb to be saved.

"There is a solution, but some small savings would have to be made in-house," Mr Horton said. "Now it's about whether Tata is interested in giving it a chance."

The two steelworkers said they had been buoyed by the support offered by Newport's two MPs – Jessica Morden and Ruth Jones – in the wake of the devastating Tata closure announcement.

Newport East MP Ms Morden has asked numerous questions in the House of Commons regarding the future security of the Orb, and on Tuesday led a parliamentary debate where she called on the UK government to step in to rescue the plant.

"The local MPs have been absolutely fantastic," Mr Williams said. "We went to parliament in the week, and I was so impressed with the way all the Welsh MPs backed each other. The way they defended our industry – I was awestruck.


"I'm not sure what the national government thinks about it, but surely every country in the world needs steel. We can't just import and import – we have to have manufacturing, and we have to have jobs. The whole country can't live in the service sector."

Today's march will meet in the area known locally as Gilligan's Island - outside Newport Central Police Station - at 12.15pm, before marching to the Westgate Hotel.

At the conclusion the march Mr Horton will make a speech on the human cost of losing the Orb, which since 1898 has been entwined in the lives of Newport's residents.

The Transporter Bridge, Newport County, the Lysaghts Institute, and many of the city's streets' names would not exist were it not for the Orb.

"We mustn't forget our history or our future – we want to make sure there are jobs for people who live in the area," Mr Horton said.

"Most people know somebody who works at Llanwern or the Orb. I want the works to be there for coming generations."

Mr Williams added: "I'd like to see that in another 121 years time there'll still be people working at the Orb, in gainful employment and enjoying life.

"It's given me a fantastic life, and made me the man I am. I'd be devastated to see it go."