STEELWORKERS’ union leaders are urging members to make a ‘huge sacrifice’ and accept both a pay cut and a pensions cut in order to secure their jobs at the Tata Steelworks in Scunthorpe for one year.
Tata yesterday sold its Long Products Europe business, including its Scunthorpe plant, to investment firm Greybull Capital for just £1 and confirmed that the deal was for only one year.
More than 4,000 workers are now being presented with an ultimatum: Accept a pay and pensions cut or you will be out of a job. All workers will be balloted by 19 April, they will be asked to accept a 3% pay cut and a reduction in company pension contributions.
The GMB’s Dave Hulse claimed the deal would ‘safeguard members’ jobs.’ Unite convenor for Tata Steel Scunthorpe Martin Foster claimed: ‘This announcement is good news and brings us within touching distance of securing a future for steelmaking in Scunthorpe.’
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: ‘The workforce is making great sacrifices and we expect Greybull to stand by assurances that it is in it for the long term. While the future of the Scunthorpe workforce looks more secure, we should not overlook the uncertainty and turmoil the rest of Tata Steel UK’s workers find themselves in.’
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community followed suit, saying: ‘We welcome this major step forward towards a deal which will continue steel making in Scunthorpe and secure the future of the Long Products business across the UK.’
Meanwhile, Tata said last month that it intends to ‘walk away’ from its plant in Port Talbot, South Wales, where it employs more than 6,000 workers if it can’t find a buyer within a few weeks. Tata workers are calling for the Port Talbot works to be occupied and for the steel industry to be nationalised.
Speaking outside a meeting of steelworkers unions at the TUC HQ in London last Monday, Unite officer Havid Patel said: ‘There’s been talk of a sit-in from some members, don’t rule it out.’
Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance said: ‘The Scunthorpe steel workers must reject this dirty deal. Greybull are venture capitalists, they have brought the company for £1, they will have access to government loans, which have to be repaid and they will make war on the steel workers to make a profit.
‘None of their assurances are believable and none of them are worth the paper they are written on, if they are written at all. This deal lasts for a year and at the end of it, if it lasts a year, the venture capitalists will come back with a shotgun to the heads of the workforce demanding even bigger concessions otherwise they will have to shut down.
‘This is what these venture capitalists do and the trade union leaders are well aware of it. This is not the way to achieve a sustainable steel industry in the UK, this is the way to work your way onto the scrapheap.
‘There is only one way forward for the steel workers nationally – Scunthorpe and Port Talport steel works and others must be immediately occupied and the whole of the trade union movement mobilised to take action and fight for the nationalisation of the steel industry under workers management.
‘This means organising a general strike to bring down the Tories. This is the only way forward because all the reassurances of Greybull are absolutely worthless as are the hopes of the trade union leaders that these are partners that they can work with.’