Indian steelmaker Tata Steel will cut up to 2,800 jobs in the United Kingdom, following the restructuring of its giant Port Talbot steelworks in Wales, which it wants to make less polluting. This is a hard blow for a region already undermined by deindustrialization.

“Around 2,500 positions should be affected” in the next eighteen months, and 300 others potentially in the next three years, details a press release from the group. The steelmaker, which plans to replace its blast furnaces with a less polluting electric equivalent, has received massive government subsidies.

Tata Steel, which employs a total of 8,000 people in the country, “announces that it will begin regulatory consultations in the process of transforming and restructuring its activities in the United Kingdom”, according to its press release. The group claims that it will thus “secure the majority of [its] production capacity” in the country while “reducing its CO2 emissions”.

On Wednesday, a source close to the matter told Agence France-Presse that around 3,000 job cuts were expected, which will mainly affect the Port Talbot factory. As part of its plan, Tata also declares that its two blast furnaces and coke ovens (intended for coking coal) at Port Talbot, “with high CO2 emissions,” “will gradually close with the first blast furnace closing around mid-2024,” and the rest by the end of the year.

Tata also specifies that after “having discussed with the unions, it agreed to continue operating the Port Talbot hot rolling mill”. The restructuring will cover several other sites across the country, up to and including 2025.

An investment of 1.25 billion pounds (1.45 billion euros) is planned for the installation of an electric furnace and the modernization of infrastructure at Tata Steel to “ensure long-term, high-quality production at the leading steelmaker in the United Kingdom,” the press release further details.

“The government will continue to support staff affected by these decisions.”

The British government has committed to injecting up to 500 million pounds into this investment project, the rest being provided by Tata, which will also finance an employment support plan. “We are determined to secure a competitive and sustainable future for the UK steel sector,” commented a spokesperson for the Conservative UK government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “knows this is a worrying time” for Tata Steel employees and their families, “and that is why the government will continue to support staff affected by these decisions.” , assured a Downing Street spokesperson on Friday.

Deeming Tata’s decision “extremely disappointing”, the GMB union tweeted on Friday: “We cannot allow Port Talbot to close. The UK must step up and protect this industry. » “We cannot find ourselves relying on imports of lower quality steel that emits much more carbon,” adds the union.

Gavin Moule, who says he is the third generation of his family to work for the steelmaker, tearfully told the BBC that the steelmaker’s announcements are “devastating for the local community.” “There is no one on this planet who does not want to move towards more ecology, but we were promised a just transition. And this is all so sudden,” he argued. “We all want a future for this factory. There is a future for it,” he continued, promising that the group’s workforce would “fight.”