The fate of UK steel factories owned by Tata Steel in Scunthorpe and Port Talbot is set to be decided next week. The board of directors of the Indian multinational is expected to meet on 29 March in Mumbai, India, to discuss whether to retain or sell the plants.
The board has to decide if it will continue to invest in the loss-making plant at Port Talbot. It has to take a call on whether the company will back the two-year turnaround plan of the plant, which was acquired this year by Karl Koehler, the chief executive of Tata Steel Europe, who has since left the company.
Fears that the board would vote for ditching the plant have led Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, the steelworkers' union, and Stephen Kinnock, the local MP, to travel to India to convince the board not to take such a decision, which is expected to affect 9,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region.
"It is now clear that the very future of our industry hangs in the balance. The Tata board meeting on 29 March will decide on the future of steelmaking in Wales," Rickhuss said. Officials at Tata Steel said the final decision would take into account if the company can continue "to invest considerable amounts into its UK business just to sustain operations".
Tata Steel's European business reported a quarterly loss of £68m (€86.04m, $96.09m) in February 2016, highlighting the UK steel crisis which has seen more than 5,000 employees lose their jobs since last summer. Since October 2015, Tata's UK operations alone have seen about 3,000 redundancies. The company had then blamed cheap imports primarily from China and some other countries such as Russia and South Korea for putting intense pressure on the company's margins.
The Tata board will also take a call next week if it should go ahead with a deal to sell the Scunthorpe plant, which has a staff of 4,500 with another 4,500 people indirectly dependent on the facility. According to The Times, a £400m rescue deal to sell the plant to Greybull Capital is "on track".