Tata Steel: Union ballot to start on pensions offer

Steelworkers at Port Talbot Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Steelworkers at Port Talbot last April when the business had been put up for sale

A ballot on a new pension offer is expected to be put to Tata Steel workers from Monday.

The three unions at the Indian company's UK plants are recommending their members, including 6,300 Tata workers in Wales, accept the deal.

They have called it the "only credible and viable way" to secure the future.

Although a less generous pension scheme, the Tata offer also includes a £1bn investment commitment at Port Talbot and no compulsory job losses.

The result of the ballot is expected by the middle of February.

Community, GMB and Unite union members are involved in the vote, after a year which has seen major jobs losses and the business being put up for sale, before Tata took it off the market as economic conditions in the industry improved.

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

Under the proposed changes, the British Steel Pension Scheme would close to future accrual, replaced with a defined contribution scheme with maximum contributions of 10% from Tata and 6% from workers.

The unions originally stood back from making any official recommendations, saying it was down to individual circumstances.

But after a meeting of 100 officials from plants across the UK on Thursday, they issued a joint statement saying the offer was the "best outcome that could be achieved through negotiation".

It also emerged a one-off pension contribution of up to £10,000 could be made to Tata workers in their 50s who plan to retire early.

Analysis by Brian Meechan, BBC Wales business correspondent

It is a big and very difficult decision to make.

Those workers who are union members will choose whether they want to remain on the final salary scheme or accept the less generous one being offered by Tata.

The new pension comes with the promise of £1bn of funding for Port Talbot over the next 10 years but only if the company is hitting profits targets.

But even with the offer of a pensions top-up for older workers, it will mean significantly less money for their retirement.

Some people said given the year they have gone through with the job losses, the sale and then its cancellation, they have simply lost trust in Tata.

This ballot is about the unions consulting their members.

Its result will dictate how officials deal with the company but the outcome is not binding on Tata itself.

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