Unions respond to Tata’s European retrenchment plan

The announcement by Tata Steel Europe (TSE) last week on planned job cuts in its European operations was not unexpected although the reaction by trade unions has been. The move has been condemned by unions in both the UK and the Netherlands as the steelmaker was criticised for not yet having supplied more details about exactly where the cuts will be made.

The Unite trade union in the UK tells Kallanish that TSE needs to reconsider its strategy for performance improvement. A unite official says “… we don’t believe that job cuts are the answer – what top executives need to examine is reversing years of underinvestment. Unite is supporting the European Works Council (EWC) in demanding that the company reconsider its plans and come back with a robust and comprehensive set of proposals that can be discussed in a constructive manner.”

The UK’s GMB trade union has been more forthright and its language more volatile. Its national officer Ross Murdoch says in a statement sent to Kallanish, “We demanded no compulsory redundancies up to 2021 and TATA confirmed they will adhere to this. We made it clear when the proposed venture with ThyssenKrupp ended, that any revised strategy for the business needed to be underpinned with long-term investment, not a short-term slash and burn. This plan falls into that latter category.”

TSE employs 8,500 people in the UK and 11,000 in the Netherlands. The total European workforce numbered 21,000 in 2018. The company’s latest move is expected to lead to an estimated reduction in employee numbers of up to 3,000, about two-thirds of which would be management and office-based roles. Up to 1,600 job losses are expected in the Netherlands, 1,000 in the UK and 350 elsewhere in the world.