London: Tata Steel Friday said it will cut 900 jobs in the UK and close 12 sites as part of major restructuring of European operations to make it an "all- weather" steel producer, capable of succeeding in difficult economic conditions.
"The proposed changes are expected to lead to a net loss of 900 jobs in the UK, including 580 in South Wales, 155 in Yorkshire, 120 in the West Midlands and 30 in Teesside," the Indian steel giant said.
The company is proposing to make changes at a number of steel finishing and processing sites in the UK, Tata Steel said in a statement.
Sites to close include Tafarnaubach and Cross Keys in South Wales, while shift levels at the company's Rotherham and Hartlepool plants will be reduced to match production to lower demand for bar products and pipelines.
"Friday's proposals are part of a strategy to transform ourselves into an 'all-weather' steel producer, capable of succeeding in difficult economic conditions," CEO of Tata Steel's European operations Karl Kohler said.
"These restructuring proposals will help make our business more successful and sustainable, but the job losses are regrettable and I know this will be a difficult and unsettling time for the employees and their families affected," he said.
A Welsh government spokesman said: "This is very disappointing news, and a massive blow to those who will be losing their jobs.
"The Welsh Government has a very strong relationship with the company and officials will now work with Tata to establish a task force and identify what support we can provide for those affected."
Kohler said the company will be working with the trade unions and government at national and local levels to ensure maximum possible assistance and support to them.
Tata Steel said it will re-start one of the two blast furnaces in Port Talbot, South Wales, being rebuilt as part of 250 million pound investment in the first quarter of 2013.
Tata Steel said the move to reopen the furnaces will also lead to the restarting of the hot strip mill at the company's Llanwern site in Newport, South Wales.
The jobs cut announcement follows downturn in the UK and European steel industry, where the fall in UK steel demand has been steeper than in any other major European economy.
Michael Leahy, General Secretary of the Community trade union and Chair of the trade unions Steel Committee, said: "We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the company to ensure our principle of no compulsory redundancies is upheld...".
Terming the proposed job losses as "symptomatic of the continuing failure of the Government's economic policy," he said the union has called on the British government to take urgent action to stimulate economic growth and help revive the manufacturing sector.
The company's proposals include the restructuring of management and administrative functions which would lead to the loss of 500 jobs at Tata Steel's Port Talbot-based production hub in South Wales.
Similar restructuring programmes were initiated last year at the company's other two production hubs.
The company is proposing to make changes at a number of steel finishing and processing sites in the UK that would improve its product and service offering for customers, the statement said.
"These changes would concentrate services at six distribution and processing hubs which would benefit from 22 million pounds of new investment and new employment, but would also lead to the closure of 12 sites, including Tafarnaubach and Cross Keys in South Wales," it added.
Kohler said that apart from support to local steel communities through subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise, "we will strengthen this work with a further 650,000 pound to help them create new jobs in affected areas".
UK Steel Enterprise has teams in all the affected locations who, for almost four decades, have helped to regenerate local economies and create 70,000 new jobs in the UK, he said.
"We will do everything we can to reduce the impact of the proposals on employees and, where possible, we will look to achieve job losses through voluntary redundancies," he added.
First Published: Friday, November 23, 2012, 19:15