Tata Steel is said to be in talks with trade unions to keep its Port Talbot plant open for longer. The Indian steel giant is said to be close to striking such a deal, which if materialises could see this South Wales plant operate into the 2020s amid additional investments from the parent.
This follows talks held between union officials and Tata Steel's bosses including executive director Koushik Chatterjee, last week, according to unnamed sources. Apart from Port Talbot, they are said to have come up with a deal that could see Tata Steel also investing into its other UK plants such as those at Shotton, Corby and Llanwern.
Leaders of the union are said to introduce a rescue plan to its Port Talbot workers this week. Getting a nod from them would lead to Tata Steel investing into this plant in return for concessions on staff terms and conditions.
The focus of this plan centres on the plant's two blast furnaces. While both of them turn iron ore and coke into molten iron, one of them is due to stop production in 2018.
A part of the investments on reaching an agreement would likely be used to fund a partial relining of the blast furnace. While this will not be a complete costly overhaul, it would help extend the life of the furnace by many years.
This news follows Tata Steel entering into exclusive talks in November to sell its South Yorkshire speciality steels business for £100m ($127m). This business, which makes steel for the aerospace, automotive and the oil & gas industries, employs around 1,700 workers. Tata had then said that it was in "exclusive negotiations" with commodities trader Liberty House, which previously rescued Tata steelworks in Scotland a year ago.
Commenting on the Port Talbot news, the steel major was cited by The Times as, "We are seeking a positive future for the UK business and during discussions with the trade unions we made substantial future assurances to achieve this."