Unions to present plan to save steel jobs


The Business Secretary will travel to Mumbai today to meet the chairman of steel giant Tata as efforts to save thousands of jobs are stepped up.

Sajid Javid will hold talks with Cyrus Mistry to discuss details of the sales process for the firm's UK steel operations.

The Indian conglomerate made a shock decision last Tuesday to sell its loss making UK business, threatening thousands of redundancies.

Mr Javid was in Australia on a business trip when the announcement was made, leading to union claims that he had "taken his eye off the ball."

Mr Javid will take part in meetings in London before flying to India.

He will join the Prime Minister in Downing Street in the morning at a meeting with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones and later is expected to hold talks with union leaders.

They are drawing up a plan to keep steelmaking, especially in Port Talbot, the country's biggest steel plant which employs 4,500 workers.

Mr Javid held "productive " talks with Tata on Monday, saying that progress was being made.

Meanwhile, unions will present a plan aimed at saving jobs in the crisis-hit steel industry as efforts continue to find a buyer for Tata's UK plants.

Community, Unite and the GMB are also planning to meet Mr Javid to outline their proposals to ease the threat of mass redundancies.

Opposition parties will step up calls for Government action, while potential buyer the Liberty Group will have further discussions with Tata and Government ministers.

Mr Javid said he had a "productive" meeting with senior Tata executives on Monday, insisting that progress was being made.

Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Liberty Group, said he had "very encouraging" talks with the Government and raised the possibility of taking over the Port Talbot steelworks without huge job losses.

Mr Gupta said he believed jobs at Port Talbot could be saved if at least 700 workers in its blast furnaces were retrained.

"We've never undertaken anything which requires redundancies - I won't undertake something which will require mass redundancies," he said.

The unions will set out demands to the Government including helping to secure Tata's customer base, and guaranteeing production of its steel operations so that customers are not lost following the company's shock announcement to sell its UK assets.

The Government will also be urged to work to ensure the integrity of the business is guaranteed, because allowing Tata or other investors to cherry-pick assets will put steelmaking at risk, unions believe.

The business needs the investment originally planned by Tata - understood to be £1.5 billion over 10 years - said a union statement, adding: "This level of investment should be achievable given that any buyer would be gaining control of assets worth £4 billion.

"But Government support is needed to bridge the 2-3 years it will take to get back to self-sustainability."

The unions have engaged steel industry advisers Syndex UK to help develop its plans.

David Cameron will come under fresh pressure to nationalise the Port Talbot steelworks until a private buyer can be found when he holds face-to-face talks with First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister insisted the UK is doing all it can to find a long-term solution for the giant South Wales plant and the Government would make it "as attractive as possible" to investors.

But Mr Jones said he would be asking Mr Cameron to provide an assurance that the Government would take Tata Steel's plants in Wales into public ownership until an investor comes forward.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will insist that the Government should put taxpayers' money into the industry.

He will tell a campaign meeting in Harlow: "We are calling on the Government to accelerate investment for £35 billion of already agreed infrastructure projects and to build them using British steel."