A few days ago I met Sam Gilroy (who used to be my boss for a while in Llanwern) on our South Wales GA trip to Goodrich Castle, and managed to have a short conversation in passing. Basically me asking and him confirming that he was still “there”, and him adding “what else can you do?” His final words were “You managed to get out while you could”, implying that there has not been a better time to get out since.
Mind you, I have noticed that many of those who were not bound by long service to stay have moved on: I’ve seen a number now showing new places of work on their LinkedIn accounts, such as IBM, Swansea University, Celsa and retraining as a teacher. I have not had any communication with anyone else in the workplace, but I can only assume that it is with trepidation that they await further developments.
We have only known of two potential buyers (Liberty and Excalibur) although it was claimed that the list was longer. That is, until the Brexit vote to leave the EU, when it was only the known candidates that remained, followed by Tata Steel placing the selling process on hold.
Very little happened throughout July and August, although rumours started to appear that Tata was in talks with Thyssen-Krupp about a possible merger. Funny that: Hans Fischer, who took over from Karl Köhler when the latter resigned as CEO, had joined Tata Steel from Thyssen-Krupp. Now I wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall during the discussions leading up to that decision.
Then came yesterday, when the local news reported that unofficial reports (read in this that there had been a quarterly review for the employees, and the unions immediately spilled the beans) quoted a monthly PROFIT of 5 million pounds for the month of June, and a profit of 12 million for the (first?) quarter. A sign that Tata had been too hasty, and that they thought the ongoing turnaround project was one of many false dawns ? Mind you, it still could be that this is a flash in the pan – after all, if the foot on the pedal slips, it’s all too easy to return to a loss-making situation.
What must this mean for those who still work in Port Talbot and Llanwern ? Basically it must be an uncertain situation, and a possible merger with Thyssen-Krupp could well imply an even more uncertain future for the UK side of the business. On the other hand, the Brexit vote has reduced the value of the pound, which could potentially mean an easier ride selling our products in Europe – that is, until we really leave the EU, when trade barriers could well go up, and we have to try and sell our steel in the world market instead.
In the meantime, my pension has now been arriving in my bank account for a few months, and the more I look at it, I should be OK even if the pension scheme moves to the Pension Protection Fund. We had a letter from the British Steel Pension Scheme claiming that they could to a better job than the PPF, which could mean that future increases might not be capped to the same extent as they would be under that scheme. In this matter I’m in exactly the same position as those who still work in the UK part of Tata Steel: I’ll have to wait and see.