Thursday, February 16, 2017

News: Tata Steel union workers back pension proposals

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Union members at Tata Steel sites in the UK, including in South Yorkshire, have voted to accept a proposal to close the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual.

The Speciality Steel sites in South Yorkshire are set to be sold after Liberty House closed a deal with Tata Steel UK to acquire the business for a total consideration of £100m. The new owners will need to honour the new pension arrangements as part of the deal.

Last year, the Government launched a consultation on changes to the pension scheme - the huge pension liability with a reported £700m deficit that was seen as a deal-breaker for prospective buyers of Tata Steel's UK assets.

The consultation followed intense discussions between Tata Steel, the UK government, the pension scheme trustees and regulators to find the best option for members of the scheme.

Eight months after Tata announced their original intention to sell its UK steel assets, the firm made a commitment to secure the future of jobs and production at Port Talbot and other steelworks across the UK.

The ballot paper set out that the company's proposals to secure a sustainable future for the UK business. Key elements include £1 billion of investment over ten years, a commitment to running the blast furnaces at Port Talbot, an employment pact offering protection against compulsory redundancies, and the introduction of a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme, with maximum employer contributions of 10%, following the closure of the BSPS to future accrual.

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The assurances are conditional on a sustainable solution for the BSPS, Tata Steel UK remaining solvent, and no industrial action in connection with the proposal.

Trade unions also secured a guarantee from Tata that commits Liberty House to honour the new defined contribution pension arrangements. This means that under a new owner, union members in Speciality Steels would be entitled to the same pension arrangements as members in Tata Steel UK, with employer contributions of up to 10%.

Members of the Community Union voted 72.1% to accept the proposals, with members at Unite, 75.6% in favour. GMB members voting yes came in at 74.0%.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, 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.

"Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. 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 PPF [Pension Protection Fund]."

Tata Steel website

Images: Tata Steel


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