TATA Steel has announced plans to close two blast furnaces at Port Talbot as early as next week, ahead of looming strikes.

Last week, members of Unite union at steelworks company Tata Steel, put plans in motion to stage an indefinite strike from July 8.

Now, workers have been told that they are taking "preparatory steps" to stop operations on both blast furnaces and isolate them no later than July 7, three months earlier than planned before their intended closure date in September 2025.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said: “Following the announcement by Unite Union to unilaterally call strike action from 8 July, Tata Steel is unfortunately forced to commence legal action to challenge the validity of Unite’s ballot."

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Unite is fighting for the future of the steel industry. We have secured serious investment from Labour to safeguard jobs.

“Tata putting out a statement to shut or pause its blast furnaces three months earlier than they intended to is the latest in a long line of threats that won’t deter us.

“The Unite campaign is not about selling jobs, it’s about securing the long-term future of steel making in this country for thousands of workers in Port Talbot and South Wales."

First Minister, Vaughan Gething and Jeremy Miles MS, cabinet secretary for economy, energy and Welsh language, said in a joint statement: "The news that Tata could switch off Blast Furnaces 4 and 5 at Port Talbot next week is extraordinary and will cause huge anxiety for the workforce, their families and the community. 

"The Welsh Government cannot and will not support the closure of both blast furnaces. As we have said many times, the company should wait for the outcome of next week’s General Election before taking irreversible decisions. Acting whilst the nation goes to the polls does not help to deescalate matters.

"The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language held talks with the company earlier today. Urgent and good faith negotiations are now required to ensure safety at the site and avoid an outcome that would have such a severe and lasting impact on Port Talbot, Wales and the UK."

Alun Davies, national officer of the Community union, said: “Community condemns Tata’s unacceptable decision to bring forward the closure of the Port Talbot blast furnaces.

“We continue to support the Labour Party’s call for Tata not to make irreversible decisions before the General Election, and we urge all stakeholders to engage in meaningful discussions through the Multi-Union Steel Committee.

“All parties must pull back from the brink and negotiate to protect jobs and the interests of all union members at Tata Steel UK.”

Commenting on the news that Tata Steel are set to close blast furnaces earlier than expected, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for economy and energy, Samuel Kurtz MS, said: "This is disappointing news that will cause additional distress to communities already dealing with enough as it is. Tata have shown no goodwill to their workforce at what is an anxious time.

"The Welsh Labour government have also only paid lip service to Tata’s workforce, failing to contribute a penny to the transition board, and UK Labour’s manifesto says nothing on what it would do differently to support Port Talbot’s steelworkers."