Tata Steel has confirmed it is looking into selling its entire UK steel operation, casting doubt over the future of at least 15,000 steelworkers across the UK.
Unions have reacted to the news with shock and anger after the decision was taken at a company board meeting in Mumbai, India.
They had been hoping Tata would agree a plan to keep steelmaking in Port Talbot and other UK plants. Among the other plants that will be affected are Rotherham, Corby and Shotton.
The Community Union is calling for an urgent meeting with David Cameron, warning the UK is “now on the verge of a national crisis”.
Tata announced more than 1,000 job cuts in January, including 750 at Port Talbot in south Wales.Thousands of steel jobs have been lost in the past year, with companies blaming cheap Chinese imports and high energy costs.
In a statement, Tata said the board had unanimously concluded a plan aimed at saving plants including Port Talbot was unaffordable, adding it had been in “deep engagement” with the Government in seeking its support for the UK business.
“Following the strategic view taken by the Tata Steel Board regarding the UK business, it has advised the board of its European holding company ie Tata Steel Europe, to explore all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts,” the company said.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who is with union delegates in India, told Sky News that while it was “disappointing” Tata had not supported a rescue plan, it was good news they were looking for potential buyers.
He said: “That is the most important thing: that Port Talbot continues to produce steel.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “deeply concerned” by the news and called on the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency, possibly by taking a public stake in the industry.
David Hulse, national officer of the GMB union, said: “The Government needs to act now and support the steel industry. We are fed up with the false promises.
“Help is needed now otherwise these communities will never recover from this. Shame on Tata Steel.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said workers will “feel a grim sense of betrayal” and said he would be seeking a meeting with the Government “as a matter of urgency in order that steps to save our steel are taken by Government without delay”.
There have also been calls for the Welsh Assembly to be recalled from its Easter recess to discuss the crisis.
Such a move was backed by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, who told Sky News: “Everything needs to be done now and all parties need to pull together to try and make sure there is a future, because it’s not just one individual steel plant that is at stake here, it’s an entire industry.”
The UK and Welsh governments said in a joint statement: “Both the UK and Welsh governments are working tirelessly to look at all viable options to keep a strong British steel industry at the heart of our manufacturing base.”