Ending a major dispute at the UK arm of Tata Steel, all the four trade unions have accepted the proposals for changes to the British Steel Pension Scheme that will keep it open.
“Pensions dispute at Tata Steel that brought the company to the brink of the biggest industrial dispute in 35 years has ended. Members of all four unions at the company have voted to accept changes to the BSPS which will keep the scheme open,” Community union said in a statement on Wednesday.
Trade unions representing workers of Tata Steel UK had announced strike action on June 22 — the biggest industrial action in the UK in over three decades — over the proposed changes in the firm’s pension scheme. Over 17,000 people work at Tata Steel across sites in Wales and around England.
However, on June 19, the unions – Community, Unite, Ucatt and GMB – suspended the strike action after Tata Steel proposed a new pension offer, which would keep BSPS open.
The consultative ballots on changes to the BSPS closed at noon on Wednesday, the statement said.
“All union members were asked if they agreed with the unions’ recommendation to accept the proposed changes that keep the BSPS open,” it added.
A majority of members from all the four unions voted in favour of the proposal.
Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “The challenges will not end here. There is more to do both to resolve the concerns of our members at Tata Steel and to meet the wider challenges faced by the UK steel industry.”
It was apparent during this dispute that the company was not listening to the concerns of its workforce, which led to a serious breakdown in trust and confidence. All unions have already begun a dialogue with Tata Steel to address these issues, said Rickhuss, who is also the Chair of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee.
Earlier, Tata Steel had proposed to replace the BSPS with a “money purchase” pension scheme in which employees, the government and the employer were to make definite contributions. That would also raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.
The unions said that at present workers can retire at 60 without an actuarial reduction.
Tata Steel, on the other hand, had insisted that workers wishing to retire at 60 would lose 5 per cent of each year of early retirement – 25 per cent in total.
Commenting on the development, a Tata Steel spokesperson said that the recommended proposal is fair and balanced.
“The agreed proposal represents a fair and balanced solution in which UK employees will continue to be provided with high-quality pensions.
“The new arrangements, including the modifications to scheme benefits, will address a significant proportion of the pension scheme’s projected deficit. Other actions to be agreed with the pension Trustee will address the balance,” the spokesperson said.
The company will now proceed with the completion of the statutory consultation process and continue to engage with the trade unions, the spokesperson added.