My dad works at Tata Steel and he might lose his job

‘To lose it would be to lose a close loved one’

This week we found out that as many as 15,000 jobs could be affected if a buyer isn’t found for Port Talbot’s steelworks. For every Tata employee, it is estimated that another person’s job is supported outside of the plant.  You could say my hometown has seen better days.

I am the son of a steelworker and there are about three generations before my father who proudly toiled away at the Port Talbot plant. This is common locally, and many school children are those of steelworkers, sitting in classrooms where their ancestors have sat for multiple generations too. Steel has built strong social ties in the town, as well as putting dinner on the table.

When speaking to family and friends, I hear despair and helplessness – despair as the economic hub and beating heart of our industrial history hangs in the balance. There has been a lack of political action in dealing with the causes of the steel crisis, and we’re defenceless.

Port Talbot Steelworks

Port Talbot Steelworks

Many at the works have spent their entire working lives there and have remained loyal under various owners and different strains to the industry. However, many feel let down by the lack of loyalty being shown to them. They waited nervously for 45 days to see if the service would be drawn to an end by the redundancy programme. Many mothers and wives waited anxiously by the phone to hear word of whether their livelihoods would be threatened.

People like my father might just be OK if, God forbid, Tata Port Talbot were to close. Nearing retirement at 52, a redundancy might just see him to the finishing line. But this is not the case for many of the younger workers. If the worst were to happen, Port Talbot and the surrounding areas could see a depression as thousands of jobs are ripped out of the economy and the supply chains are drained of demand. It would have an adverse affect on local businesses and house prices in the area would fall, making things harder for those who may want to move to find new jobs.

As you can guess, the closure could have a dire effect on the town economically which would reach nearly everyone. However, the same goes culturally too – the people of Port Talbot are extremely proud of our working class and our industrial history. A closure would mean cutting a hole in the cultural fabric of a once vibrant town and would add insult to injury.

Jamie, 26, now lives in London but still has ties with Port Talbot

Jamie, 26, now lives in London but still has ties with Port Talbot

The future of Port Talbot remains unclear. If you ask most residents, they’d tell you that the town is nothing without its steel production and there is no obvious way to fill the void that would be left by its closure. Many skilled workers who have spent their lives at Tata would likely be left in a precarious job market, where supply would outstrip demand until something new is found to generate growth.

In short, the steelworks represents more than jobs – it represents an important cultural link between the past and present in my hometown and that is more valuable than anything money can measure. To lose it would be to lose a close loved one.