Production halted at Tata Steel’s Dutch mill as workers stage protest

Production at Tata Steel’s Dutch plant in IJmuiden was halted for about 24 hours June 19 as the workers staged a strike at the flat steel producer, the company confirmed to S&P Global Platts.

The strike started during the night shift June 18, halting liquid steel production at the site, which has steelmaking capacity of 7.3 million mt/year. The mill produces hot-rolled, cold-rolled and hot-dip galvanized sheet.

A Tata Steel spokesperson said the company would be trying to limit disruption to deliveries.

“We have taken all measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of steel products to our customers, including taking material to off-site locations when appropriate. As a pan-European company, we also have more than one supply route which we will use this if, and when, appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

Dutch workers are fearing they will have to take more job cuts than the UK branch of Tata’s European steel business. While they have been criticizing lack of enough investments into the Dutch works, the sudden departure of company chairman Theo Henrar in May has also been a catalyst for strikes and increased tensions.

“We want the profits that we have made for years, which are channeled to the UK, to be invested in IJmuiden,” said trade union Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging (FNV) in a statement.

A reduction in 1,250 jobs was announced by Tata Steel as part of its “transformation program” in March this year, and in April, the company said it would postpone its reorganization plans until after July 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers are planning further action if the Tata Steel management fails to meet their demands of promising that no additional jobs would be cut and that Tata Steel Europe would not be sold. In 2019, Tata Steel Europe and Germany’s Thyssenkrupp called off their planned steel merger after failing to get approval from the European Commission.

Tata Steel also has an integrated steel mill in Port Talbot, UK, with an annual capacity of around 5 million mt of liquid steel/y. The strike is the latest confrontation between Tata Steel workers, unions and the company’s management.

— Laura Varriale