A LEADING union has slated Tata’s “shock” announcement it will close the coking ovens at Port Talbot steel works from tomorrow, March 20.

The multinational conglomerate, which also runs steel works in Llanwern, said the performance of the ovens had been deteriorating over months despite “herculean efforts” by the teams on site.

The Morfa Coke Ovens were first commissioned in 1981.

Rajesh Nair, CEO of Tata Steel UK, said he had always been “struck by the spirit and camaraderie of the workforce” there.


Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies asked outgoing first minister Mark Drakeford whether the Welsh Government had received assurances about the timeline of other closures.

“This has posed a question over the other assets and other they will move forward in the closure of other assets should the coking ovens be closed tomorrow,” Mr Davies said.

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“Have you had conversations with Tata to seek assurances that the other assets and the timeline will not move forward by three months?”

Mr Drakeford replied: “In the end we and the trade unions understand that, if there are critical operational safety issues at stake, they have to take precedence over all the other things of which we have such a concern.

South Wales Argus: Mark Drakeford responded to concerns over Tata closures in his last First Minister's Questions sessionMark Drakeford responded to concerns over Tata closures in his last First Minister's Questions session (Image: Welsh Government)

“We have an assurance from the company that the closure of the ovens will not impact on the timeline of the closure of the first blast furnace that’s due to close by the end of June.”

Peter Hughes, Unite regional secretary for Wales, said Tata indicated as recently as Friday, March 15, they had “hopes to improve the situation” with the coking ovens.

“Unite has previously called for an independent assessment into the viability of the coking ovens and that assessment is even more crucial now,” he said.

South Wales Argus: Inside the pickline line at Tata LlanwernInside the pickline line at Tata Llanwern (Image: Tata Steel)

“Tata cannot be allowed to carry on its course of deliberate industrial vandalism. Unite will fight the company every step of the way.”

Unite is currently balloting 1,500 Tata workers about industrial action. The vote closes on April 9 and strikes could begin by the end of the month.

Tata declined to comment on whether the decision to close the coking ovens at Port Talbot affected or indicated future plans for operations at Llanwern.