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Unions back Tata Steel pension reforms in UK

The deal is expected to pave the way for a £1 billion investment

It is hoped the vote will now bring an end to nearly a year of uncertainty for thousands of workers who faced losing their jobs when Tata's United Kingdom business was put up for sale in March 2016.

At the end of January, the Indian conglomerate giant, which employs approximately 8,000 jobs across Britain, proposed to invest approximately £1bn ($1.3bn) over the next 10 years to save its United Kingdom business, including the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said the vote provided "a clear mandate" from members to move discussions forward with Tata to find a "sustainable solution" for the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Unions Community, GMB and Unite, who make up the vast majority of Tata's 10,000 United Kingdom staff, said support for the change was strong, with the yes vote running at between 72.1pc and 75.6pc.

However, under the proposal, the steel maker said it would spin off its pension scheme into a separate entity, with the British Steel Pension Scheme to be closed to future accrual and be replaced with a defined contribution scheme. "Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF)".

"Nothing less would be a betrayal and add to the deep mistrust that steelworkers now have for the company", he said.

"Now that steelworkers have done their bit, it is time for the government to step up and do theirs", David Hulse from the GMB added. "Thousands of skilled jobs rely on steelmaking and the industry supports the whole United Kingdom manufacturing sector", said Hulse. Approximately three quarters of votes supported the proposals, which involve saving the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales. "The UK government must now work in lockstep with the Welsh government and put steel at the heart of a manufacturing industrial strategy which ensures UK steel is used in all major infrastructure and defence projects", said Unite national officer Tony Brady.

In recent weeks, politicians have waded into the debate, with one urging workers to vote against a deal with Tata.

Malcolm Boyles, managing director distribution UK & Ireland, said: "The latest investment greatly increases our capabilities here in the UK, and means we can continue to increase our supply of high-quality steel parts not only to the UK supply chain but to other customers across Europe".

The government have called the decision a "positive step forward" for both Tata Steel across the United Kingdom 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".

700 people are employed at tata Shotton.