Saturday, 16 April 2016

Standing up for Trostre

Joe Gallacher, the Works Manager at Trostre steelworks, is deeply committed to his industry. After spending ten years as the manager of the steelworks at Port Talbot, he has been overseeing Trostre for several years. He is surrounded by senior managers with long and rich experience of the trade.

I mention this because when First Minister Carwyn Jones sat down with Joe Gallacher, his team, and senior trade union representatives, at the plant on Monday, it was clear that this team are passionate about their plant and its workforce.  

While local MP Nia Griffith met with Business Secretary Sajid Javid in Westminster, Carwyn Jones and I updated the Trostre management and unions on his talks with the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Carwyn also took us through his talks with Liberty Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta.

It was clear from the meeting that Carwyn Jones and Joe Gallacher will do all they can to save the works.

The sale of the TATA steel plants throw up a range of challenges and complexities. Port Talbot and Trostre are closely linked, and Trostre is closely linked to the plants in TATA’s European arm. To disentangle any of these is going to be complicated. But if that’s what it comes to, I have little doubt that the team at Trostre can do it.

At a political level a solution is going to require the Welsh Government and the UK Government to work together. The Chancellor, George Osborne, has agreed to find a solution to the pension fund deficit to allow TATAs business to be attractive to new buyers. The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said he’ll consider taking on some of Port Talbot’s debts as part of a ‘co-investment’ between a private buyer and the Government.

For his part Carwyn Jones has been praised by One of Wales' most successful entrepreneurs, Sir Chris Evans, for his role. The Port Talbot born businessman said this week that “Carwyn Jones has been strong and clear with London. He has stood up for Port Talbot and for British steel making. Even in these hard pressed times he will find £60m from Welsh coffers for Port Talbot and so London should find 20x that amount for starters!”.

One thing is clear, sorting the ownership will not be enough. If we want to keep a British based steel industry the Government needs to put in place an active industrial strategy - ensuring the steel is competitive, and there is a market for it in this country.

All photos are the copyright of Natasha Hirst

Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli

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