THE Vicar of Port Talbot, the Revd Mark Williams, whose parish St Theodore’s encompasses the Port Talbot steelworks, spoke this week of the "sense of doom and uncertainty" hanging over the town after the news that 750 jobs at the plant are to go.
Mr Williams, son of a Port Talbot steelworker, said: "At the moment nobody knows who’s losing their job, or in what areas the losses will be targeted.
"It affects a much wider community than just Port Talbot; a lot of people who were transferred from steel plants at Llanwern, Newport, or Ebbw Vale, travel in some distance, and suppliers and contractors will also be affected."
The redundancies are part of 1050 job losses announced by Tata Steel at its plants in south Wales and elsewhere in the UK. A 45-day consultation period started this week.
"It is all an uncertain thing at the moment," Mr Williams said on Tuesday. "They are all waiting for further news, which casts an air of gloom over the place. We should know by the end of February. But we are here for them and offering our prayerful support. We don’t know yet quite what other support to offer as we don’t know what will be needed. But there is keenness on all sides to get it sorted as soon as possible; no one wants it dragging on."
The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd David Wilbourne, has offered a free debt-counselling service through the charity Christians Against Poverty. He said in a statement: "Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with those affected. Our parish priests in the town are, as ever, available to give support, not least to offer prayer and a listening and sympathetic ear."
The Team Rector of Aberavon, Canon Nigel Cahill, said that people feared further redundancies. "There is great concern about the knock-on effect on Tata’s contractors in the area, and people are also worried there will be further job losses announced in the future. Our churches are there to support and help all affected, either through prayer or through practical means such as debt advice."
Rick Hayes, a part-time industrial chaplain funded by Tata, whose job as a training co-ordinator with the company is at risk, said on Tuesday: "Everybody knew it was coming, but once it was in black-and-white in front of us, it was still a shock.
"We have an in-house counsellor who people can talk to confidentially; and I can be a listening post, show that there is somebody who cares. I can point to areas of help, see what sort of retraining courses can be found, and show them they do have transferable skills."
In a statement to the House of Commons, the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, Anna Soubry, said: "We have seen today that the steel industry remains subject to unprecedented global pressures. . . I can assure the House that we continue to do all we can to help this industry, and we will stand by all the workers who face redundancy in South Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom."