Struggle over Tata steel pensions argument

Port Talbot steelworks Image copyright GEOFF CADDICK/GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Port Talbot is the biggest steelworks, employing more than 4,000

A deal to change Tata's pension scheme has proved harder to sell to staff than was expected, BBC Wales understands.

Steel workers at Port Talbot have expressed concerns over the agreement between the company and unions to accept a less generous pension in return for future investment on site.

Unions will not make a recommendation to their members on whether to accept or reject the proposal.

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.

Image caption A big chunk of Tata's workforce in the UK is in Wales - figures for April 2016

Although this is not as generous as current provisions, experts say it is better than many other company schemes.

The unions believe the company is responsible 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.

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Media captionAberavon councillor Tony Taylor said some workers felt "railroaded" by the deal

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 10 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.

It is understood many workers are angry 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.

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Media captionPort Talbot steel workers 'worried for the future'

Steel worker David Edwards, who has worked at the Port Talbot plant for 11 years, said the general mood among workers was "pretty depressing".

"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," he said.

"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."

He added: "People are worried for their future."

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

But he added: "I think this is the only game in town to be honest and it's given a lifeline of five, seven, 10 years.

"At least it's giving secure long-term jobs and it's going to be a stable industry for that time."

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

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies called on the first minister to work with Tata and unions and use his influence to help sell the deal to the workforce.

Mr Davies said: "Given that the first minister last week gave his unequivocal backing for the Tata deal in the Assembly chamber, it is now incumbent on him to work with the company and the unions to help sell the deal to the workforce."

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