Business

What next for Tata Steel workers?

Tata Steel plant at Port Talbot, 30 March 2016 Image copyright Reuters

Tata Steel has 15,000 workers in the UK. Of those, 5,000 of those are at plants in Lanarkshire and Scunthorpe, which are in the process of being sold to Liberty Group and Greybull Capital.

That leaves 10,000 whose future may depend on just how involved the UK government wants to get in the steel industry.

Despite their calls for government help, this is not the outcome workers and unions were hoping for.

They had hoped to garner support from Tata for their ambitious turnaround plan, which would turn hundreds of millions in losses to profit within two years, with the help of additional Tata investment. That plan was last night rejected as "unaffordable" and "risky".

Tata says it wants to sell up "in a time-bounded way" - in other words, pretty damn quick - which is understandable if you are losing a million pounds a day.

It insists it's not leaving the business in the lurch and points to the Liberty and Greybull transactions as evidence. Those firms may buy additional bits and pieces, but there is deep scepticism that either of them have the firepower or appetite to take on something as big as Port Talbot and its 4,000 workers.

That leaves the UK government. It says it wants to explore "any viable option", but is very reluctant to include temporary or partial nationalisation within the definition of viable.

The Scottish government temporarily took ownership of Tata's Lanarkshire sites to help bridge a transaction to Liberty, but that was on a much smaller scale.

At the moment, the workers at Port Talbot have seen their best hope dashed, with no plan B and time running out. Not a comforting combination.

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