Strike threat at Tata Steel

Tata Steel, Stocksbridge.
Tata Steel, Stocksbridge.
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A Tata Steel proposal to close its pension scheme has brought steel unions ‘to brink of first national dispute in over 30 years’

Today, senior managers from Tata Steel announced plans to close the British Steel Pension Scheme - prompting trade union representatives to prepare to ballot members for industrial action.

Tata employs 2,050 people in South Yorkshire at sites in Rotherham and Stocksbridge.

Roy Rickhuss is general secretary of the Community trade union and chairman of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee, which includes national representatives from Community, Unite and the GMB.

He said: “Tata Steel’s decision to close the BSPS is unnecessary and profoundly disappointing. It is not a position we expected to find ourselves in given that trade unions have been in discussions with the company since early November.

“Throughout a long process we have acted in good faith and negotiated constructively in trying to reach an agreement which addresses what we acknowledge to be a significant deficit in the scheme.

“We have made every effort to compromise with the company, even discussing the possibility of meeting the deficit through changes to member benefits, despite the fact the company is legally obliged to pay for the deficit and has always done so in the past.

“Sadly, the company rejected this offer out of hand. It appears they are hellbent on closing the scheme and are not prepared to compromise. We have lost all faith in the company and its leadership, which has brought us to the brink of a major national industrial dispute for the first time in over 30 years. The senior management of Tata Steel Europe should seriously consider their positions for bringing about this total breakdown in trust.

“We feel we have no option but to consult our members and prepare to ballot for industrial action to defend their hard won pension rights.”

A Tata Steel spokesman said: “The company and the trade unions have had a number of meetings to discuss the preliminary actuarial valuation of the British Steel Pension Scheme as at 31 March 2014. Those discussions have been held in a constructive and transparent atmosphere.

“The unions and company have discussed the performance of the UK business and considered the challenges facing the pension scheme.

“We proposed changes to the defined benefit scheme which we believe would have had a balanced impact across our UK employees. We believe the trade unions’ proposals to change member benefits would have unfairly disadvantaged younger scheme members, who would have had to bear most of the impact of the changes. The company believes a more balanced solution was necessary if the defined benefit scheme was to remain open.

“We have been unable to come to an agreement that would have enabled defined benefit provision to continue and we will be consulting employees on a proposal to close the defined benefit scheme to future accrual. It is proposed that future pension provision will be on a defined contribution basis.

“We remain committed to providing employees with competitive future pension provision.”