More Tata Steel workers vote for strike action

Steel works Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tata Steel UK employs about 17,000 workers

Tata Steel workers belonging to the Unite union have voted to go on strike in protest at the closure of the British Steel pension scheme.

Under the pension proposals, workers will also be expected to work for five more years before they can receive their full pension.

Unite joins other steel unions, Community, GMB and Ucatt, in voting for strike action.

Tata said the strike vote was "very disappointing".

If the action goes ahead, it will be the first national steel strike for 30 years.

The four unions represent 17,000 steel workers who have been told that they may have to retire at 65 rather than 60 under the new pension proposals.

Tata released an open letter to employees last Friday which said Tata's UK operations were losing money and the pension scheme had a shortfall of more than £2bn.

But Unite and the other unions claim that they have "already offered pension savings of £850m to the company after five months of intensive negotiations".

Unite national officer for steel Paul Reuter said: "Our members have made it clear that they are not prepared to have their contracts with their futures torn up in front of their eyes.

"We have offered Tata Steel UK the savings it says it needs. Instead the company is hell-bent on making people who work in a physically demanding environment graft unnecessarily for a further five years to get their full pension."

Unite said it would meet the other steel unions next week to discuss next steps, including industrial action.

'New measures'

A Tata Steel spokesman said: "We have been trying to develop an affordable and sustainable pension scheme for employees, so today's ballot result is very disappointing."

The firm pointed out that less than half the workforce voted for strike action.

But in signs that Tata may be bowing to pressure from the unions, it said: "We have over the last few months listened carefully to our employees during a consultation process.

"In response to this feedback, we will soon be announcing new measures which will lessen the impact of the proposed pension changes, particularly on our longest-serving employees nearing retirement age.

"We hope that these important changes to our proposals will be welcomed by employees and the trade unions and that they will consider this when deciding on any industrial action."

Cheap imports

Profits within the UK steel industry are being squeezed by cheap imports and weak demand. Its costs are also higher than elsewhere for both energy and labour.

The company's parent, India's Tata Steel Ltd, reported an $889m (£582m) quarterly loss this month, partly because of its UK business.

In Wales, Tata has sites in Port Talbot, Llanwern in Newport, Shotton in Flintshire and Trostre, Carmarthenshire.

It also has a plant at Motherwell in Scotland, while in England, there are plants at Corby, Scunthorpe, Redcar, Rotherham, Hartlepool, Walsall and Wednesbury.

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