Steelworkers are resisting TATA plan – while unions stay on the fence

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A DEAL to change Tata’s pension scheme has proved harder to sell to staff than was expected.

It is being resisted by steelworkers who have rebuked their unions for attempting to sell it to them. A slashing of the pension is the issue. Meanwhile trade unions have not made a recommendation to their members on whether to accept or reject the proposal, seeking to evade their responsibility.

Tata is consulting staff on moving to the new scheme, calling it essential. It has launched a series of ‘roadshows’ for staff to explain what moving from the current final salary pensions will mean for them. The new defined contribution scheme will see 10% paid in by the business and 6% by the employees.

The unions believe the company is responsible, not the unions, for explaining to workers why it thinks the changes are necessary. They say they will not ballot members until Tata has explained all the details. Tata has made it clear the changes are required in order for it to commit to a new package at Port Talbot, including investing £1bn over ten years.

There is also a guarantee to keep operating two blast furnaces at the site for five years and to try to avoid compulsory redundancies over the same period. Any extra investment from Tata is also linked to improved productivity and savings at Port Talbot.

Many workers are angry that the pension proposals are back on the table after Tata was forced to back down from similar plans 18 months ago when unions threatened strike action. There has also been criticism over a lack of detailed information from the company.

Steel worker Steven Edwards, who has worked at the Port Talbot plant for 11 years, said: ‘The more we seem to be hearing, the more fine print then, it doesn’t seem to be as good a deal as it originally sounded like.

‘The pensions have already been attacked, people have been pushed from working from 60 until 65. . . now they’re coming for the pension again. It just seems to be one thing after the other.’

Aberavon councillor Tony Taylor said some workers felt ‘railroaded’ by the deal.

The steelworkers union, Community, has said there is no better deal on the table from the company.