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Fresh uncertainty for steelworkers over sale plans

Tata’s plans will affect three sites in South Wales and the West Midlands.

Plans to sell a number of Tata Steel businesses will spark another period of uncertainty for hundreds of workers across the UK, unions are warning.

The group’s European arm is seeking buyers for “non-core” units which supply products to niche markets.

The sale covers five business units, including Cogent, which manufactures electrical steels based in Newport, South Wales, Firsteel, which coats steel for kitchen bakeware based in Walsall, West Midlands, and Wolverhampton-based Engineering Steels Service Centre, which processes engineering steels.

Other sites are in Canada, Sweden, Germany and Turkey.

Hans Fischer, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, said: “These potential sales follow the successful sale of other non-core businesses in recent years, such as Long Products Europe and Speciality Steels.

“Under new ownership these former Tata Steel businesses have found the focus to secure a more sustainable future.

“In turn, these divestments have allowed us to focus resources on making significant improvements to the core strip business, as part of our ambition to develop the most sustainable steel business in Europe focused on our IJmuiden and Port Talbot value chains.

“The customer bases for the businesses being sold are distinct from the rest of Tata Steel Europe. We want to find the best owner for each of these business units who can focus on their needs to help them realise their full potential.

“These potential sales would enable Tata Steel Europe to focus investment and management resource on its core strip products business and strategic markets.”

The business units covered by the announcement employ a total of 1,100 workers.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: “Clearly this will bring yet another period of uncertainty to hundreds of steelworkers across the UK and will be worrying news for many of them and their families.

“We are yet to be persuaded of the business cases for these proposed sales and we are calling on Tata to demonstrate that it is a responsible seller in practical terms by allowing time for the unions and our experts to look at the rationale behind today’s announcement. No sale agreements should be signed before full consultation has taken place.

“During our discussions with Tata about the merger with thyssenkrupp, we secured a commitment that there would be no asset closures and this principle must be upheld throughout this process and any sale.

“Potential purchasers need to have the best interests of these businesses at heart, honour the jobs pact we have secured and be prepared to invest. The skilled and experienced workforces within these businesses have delivered for their owners time and again – they deserve a sustainable future.”

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