15 February 2017

Tata workers agree to pension cuts

An end to the ongoing steel crisis affecting Tata’s steelworks may be in sight after thousands of workers backed a deal on the future of their pensions in order to save the struggling company.

Members of three unions at sites in Wales, Scotland, South Yorkshire and Teeside voted overwhelmingly in favour of moving from a final salary pension to a less generous scheme. In return, Tata’s offer included a £1 billion investment into the Port Talbot plant and no compulsory job losses.

Under the proposed changes, the British Steel Pension Scheme will close to future accrual. It will be replaced with a defined contribution scheme with maximum contributions of 10% from Tata and 6% from workers. The BBC have also reported that a one-off pension contribution of up to £10,000 could be made to Tata staff in their 50s who plan to retire early.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, whose members voted 72% in favour of the proposal, said: “This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme.”

Three-quarters of the Unite union voted in favour. The union’s national officer, Tony Brady, said that the past year for members had been “a hellish time … as uncertainty has swirled around the steel industry”, adding that “this is not a decision our members have taken lightly.” He also called on Tata to “repay those sacrifices” through “honouring its commitments on investment and job security. Nothing less would be a betrayal.”

Both Brady and Dave Hulse, national officer of the GMB union (74% in favour) have also put pressure on the government to help the struggling steel industry. “Thousands of skilled jobs rely on steelmaking and the industry supports the whole UK manufacturing sector,” said Hulse. “Instead of insulting steelworkers by classing their industry as a ‘low priority’, the government set out a strategy for steel that recognises it as a high priority for investment and innovation.”

The government have called the decision a “positive step forward” for both Tata Steel across the UK and the Port Talbot plant, with a government official saying “the government will play its role in supporting the steel industry to help deliver a sustainable future.”

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Chris Beck

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