Tata Steel sale bid led to bitter mistrust among workers


David Humphreys

Tata Steel’s attempts to offload its UK assets “promoted a bitter mistrust of the company” among steelworkers.

Representatives of the more than 700 staff at Tata Steel’s Colorcoat and Building Systems UK site have called on the Indian conglomerate to “stick to its promises” over investment in the company over the next decade.

Despite reaching an agreement over a pensions plan earlier this week, workers in Deeside feel there is more to be done to resolve issues at Tata.

Members of the three unions that represent workers at plants all over the country, including Shotton, backed changes by around 3-1, giving the owners mandate to “move forward” following months of uncertainty.

In December, Tata Steel struck a deal to create a more sustainable future for its UK business and protect jobs at the downstream site in Flintshire.

The company announced that it was looking to offload its British assets in March.

That sale was put on hold when Tata said it was looking into the possibility of a tie-up with a German company ThyssenKrupp but the company has now backed proposals for an investment plan of £1 billion that will protect jobs at its UK sites.

This includes pumping around £7m of cash into Shotton.

The Shotton multi-union group, comprising of members from Unite, Community and GMB, have now called on bosses to keep that promise.

In a statement, they said: “It is very clear that the situation the workforce has been facing since March 29, 2016, has festered and promoted a bitter mistrust of the company.

“Following a year of uncertainty for workers, it was incumbent on the company to build up that trust again.

“It's now time for Tata to step up and keep its side of the deal ensuring that the £1bn of investment over the next 10 years begins as soon as possible.

“We really need Tata to stick to its promises and get investment into the industry so we get the state-of-the-art plant required to compete on the world market.”

In the national ballot on the future of the pensions scheme at Tata, members of Community voted 72 per cent in favour, on a turnout of 70 per cent. Unite reported a 75 per cent vote in favour on a 69 per cent turnout and the GMB said its members voted ‘yes’ by 74 per cent in a turnout of just more than half its members.

Under the proposed changes, the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) will close to future accrual, and be replaced with a defined contribution scheme with maximum contributions of 10 per cent from Tata and 6 cent from workers.

A multi-union spokesman said these were “significantly improved proposals negotiated by the National Officers of Unite, Community & GMB.”

The statement added that there was work to be done to fully resolve issues.

“However, there are still a number of aspects surrounding the closure of BSPS to future accrual that remain unresolved.

“The outcome of yesterday's ballot has taken us one positive step further, but there is still some distance to travel on this issue before it can be satisfactorily resolved.”

The unions also called for further support from leaders in Westminster and hailed the efforts of representatives in the Welsh Government in Cardiff.

The spokesman added: “While we recognise the considerable and ongoing support from the Welsh Government, we now need central government to throw their support behind this plan to ensure a sustainable steel industry for the UK going forward.”

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