Tata Steel
Tata Steel said it plans to sell its Long Products DivisionReuters

The UK's steel trade unions have called for a "meaningful consultation" after Tata Steel said it plans to sell its Long Products division, putting up to 6,500 jobs at risk.

The unions, including Community, Unite, GMB, and Ucatt, want the employer to examine "all the options" to secure the future of the whole business and the steel industry in the UK.

"Union representatives from all Tata Steel sites were clear that they are not convinced that selling Long Products is the best way forward in the interests of the members they represent," a spokesperson for the The National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee said.

"We understand that this process could take weeks or months and that there will be continuing uncertainty for our members, which is why we were so disappointed that Tata Steel failed to consult the unions prior to making their announcement last week.

"However, we have a duty to examine all the options in the interests of UK steel making."

Union representatives also raised concerns about the implications for their pensions during the meeting at the Trades Union Congress in London.

The group warned that they would ballot their members for industrial action if Tata "made any moves against" the British Steel Pension Scheme, whose fund value fell to £12.7bn ($20.3bn, €16bn) over its last financial year.

The latest development comes after Karl Koehler, the chief executive of Tata, said that the steel industry has come "through the worst" in Europe and that the group's Long Products division "is moving towards" break even.

"Accelerating the pace of innovation on advanced steel solutions, helping our customers succeed in their markets, and creating a sustainable asset base requires significant capital and expertise," Koehler said.

"We have therefore decided to concentrate our resources mainly on our strip products activities, where we have greater cross-European production and technological synergies.

"We want to build a sustainable business in the UK and further develop our mainland Europe business and we are committed to providing the necessary leadership and financial resources to achieve that."

Tata had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.