Tata Steel worker fears for home as job cuts loom

Jason & Owen
Owen Midwinter, 23, works at Port Talbot steelworks with his father Jason

A steelworker is worried he may not be able to afford his mortgage as thousands of Tata employees remain in the dark about their futures.

Tata Steel plans to decarbonise its Port Talbot works which could result in about 3,000 jobs being scrapped.

Owen Midwinter, 23, said he and his partner would struggle to pay the bills if he had a period without work.

After meeting Tata in London on Friday, unions said it went "exceptionally well" and the company was "listening".

"We're in the dark without any real answers... with Christmas coming I'd just like to know where my future lies," said Owen, who works at the site with his father Jason, speaking before the meeting.

"The current situation is quite worrying... all there seems to be at the moment is rumours."

He said he hoped to return to work as a road marker if he were to lose his job in the site's blast furnace control room, but feared this could take him out of the area.

The UK government has promised Tata £500m to keep the Port Talbot site open and to decarbonise its operations there

In order to decarbonise its steel making processes, Tata wants to close Port Talbot's two blast furnaces, which use coal, and replace them with an electric arc furnace.

If it gets the relevant regulatory and planning approvals, Tata said the new furnaces could be operational within three years.

About 4,000 steelworkers are employed at the plant on the south Wales coast, however the proposed changes would require far fewer workers.

Steelworker unions have used an independent consultancy firm to draw up an alternative plan for the Port Talbot site in a bid to save jobs.

Owen's father Jason, 49, shared his son's concerns.

He has worked in the steelworks for the past 15 years after a period in the Royal Navy.

"I'm worried for the young steelworkers in particular. I can relate to what they're facing because when I was first employed there, jobs were under threat then as well," he said.

Jason Midwinter
Jason Midwinter says the atmosphere at the steelworks is "sullen"

"We should be looking forward to Christmas with family and friends but the not knowing is worse than anything," he said.

"You're in the works and it's sullen, there's a lot of depression, a lot of down faces. We try to pick ourselves up... we've got to."

Like a number of other steelworkers, Jason is a cast member of Taibach rugby club's pantomime - a popular fixture of the town's Christmas offering.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the performance that is hoped will provide a form of escapism for the hundreds of people expected to watch the panto in December.

Taibach panto cast
Several steelworkers are performing in Taibach rugby club's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs panto

Steve Lloyd and Martin Mahoney, who started their apprenticeship at the steelworks on the same day 34 years ago, are also among the cast.

During that period they have experienced a lot of change and job cuts at the Port Talbot site, but said the current threat to jobs was the worst they had known.

"You're going into work every day and you're thinking is there going to be a new rumour. There's a lot of unease and I think people are just looking for clarity," said Steve.

"This seems to be the most imminent threat of job losses and the potential magnitude of it came as a shock to everybody."

Martin & Steve
Steve Lloyd and Martin Mahoney, both 52, started their apprenticeship at the steelworks on the same day 34 years ago

Martin added: "When we started, we learnt that Ebbw Vale was going to close and we thought what's going to happen to us? That was a hard hitter, especially for the people of Ebbw Vale.

"This is the worst I've known it."

Both men said performing in the pantomime was a way to let off steam and forget work worries.

Deborah Glave, 56, whose husband has been a steelworker for many years, said this was the first time he had ever been scared for his livelihood.

"He is scared because it's something different happening now where he believes there is going to be job losses and one of them could be his," she said.

Deborah Glave
Deborah Glave says her husband is scared for his livelihood for the first time

She said while her husband is nearing retirement age, the job losses would be especially damaging for young workers who have children and a mortgage.

"It will have a massive impact on their lifestyles and it'll have a massive impact on the community."

In a statement, Tata said: "Tata Steel, its employee representatives and the UK and Welsh governments are all committed to transitioning to greener steelmaking in the UK.

"While we recognise the understandable concerns of our many stakeholders, we are confident that we can build a sustainable, low carbon business that continues to support steel communities, and will be at the heart of a future green UK economy."

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