Monday, June 1, 2015

News: Tata Steel workers vote overwhelmingly for strike action

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Trade unions will meet today to discuss the next steps towards strike action at Tata Steel after members voted overwhelmingly for strike action in response to the Indian-owned company's decision to close its final salary pension scheme.

Tata Steel began a statutory 60-day consultation about the changes, which include closing the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual, in March and the company is proposing closure of the scheme on April 1 2016.

Over 6,000 Community members were balloted across all Tata Steel UK sites, which include Rotherham and Stocksbridge. In total 88% of those voting voted for strike action. UCATT members voted 95.1% for strike action and GMB members also voted in favour of industrial action in an official ballot. Unite's ballot closes on Friday.

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations, wrote an open letter to employees last week. It said: "Our pension scheme's assets have not been growing fast enough to keep up with increases in the expected cost of providing benefits. The result has been a huge shortfall of up to £2 billion which is clearly not sustainable.

"We are still facing very difficult business conditions in the UK. Indeed our UK operations as a whole are still losing money and we will need further significant investments from Tata Steel if we are to build a sustainable business here.

"The changes we've proposed to our UK pension scheme will help protect the benefits colleagues have already earned. They will also, crucially, ensure a good pension for our people in the future which is both affordable and sustainable."

The unions are calling for Tata to return to the negotiating table to seek a way to end the dispute and avoid the first national industrial dispute in over 30 years.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community and Chair of the National Steel Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee, said: "Community's members at Tata Steel have now spoken loud and clear. Steelworkers are determined to stand up to Tata. They have not been fooled by the company's propaganda. They have voted overwhelmingly for their pensions, their families and their futures. The company should heed this message and return to meaningful discussions with the unions in line with Tata's values of responsibility and integrity."

A spokesperson for Tata Steel, said: "The result of the pension ballots announced earlier today is disappointing given the company is proposing to continue providing employees with highly attractive and competitive pensions. Despite most final salary pension schemes having been closed, the company originally proposed to maintain final salary pension provision, but the company's proposal was rejected by the unions.

"The shortfall of up to £2 billion faced by the pension scheme is not the fault of the company or its employees, but it can only be addressed if the company and its employees work together. The company has already stated to both the trade unions and employees, in response to the feedback received through the consultation process, that it intends to mitigate the impact of the proposed changes. We remain hopeful that employees will see that these proposals and the mitigations represent the most fair and balanced way of dealing with the deficit.

"We also remain hopeful that employees will avoid taking any action that damages our objective of building a successful and sustainable UK business capable of supporting a secure pension scheme."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel

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