London– Tata Steel workers in the UK on Wednesday voted robustly in favour of accepting steel producer’s proposal on pensions, jobs, investment and production.
As many as 72.1 per cent of the members who turned out for votes from Community and 75.6 per cent from Unite and 74 per cent of the third union, GMB, voted for the rescue plan.
“This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS),” said Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community.
“Steel workers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF,” he added.
Tony Brady, National Officer for Unite, said steel workers made great sacrifices to ensure the UK’s world class steel industry has a future.
“Those sacrifices must be repaid by Tata Steel honouring its commitments on investment and job security. Nothing less would be a betrayal and add to the deep mistrust that steel workers now have for the company,” he said.
In return for reforms that would de-risk its pension liabilities, Tata Steel had offered workers to keep both blast furnaces at Port Talbot running for at least five years with no compulsory redundancies. It also planned to invest one billion pound over a 10-year period.
“The UK government in Westminster must also repay the sacrifices and the commitment shown by steel workers to their industry by stepping up to support steel and secure its future,” Brady said.
The UK government must now work in lockstep with the Welsh Government and put steel at the heart of a manufacturing industrial strategy which ensures UK steel is used in all major infrastructure and defence projects, he said.
“This ballot involved an extremely personal decision for everyone that voted. Whichever way our members cast their votes, we know they will not have taken that decision lightly and everyone’s opinions must be respected,” said Rickhuss.
Adding that the British government still has an important role to play, he expected them to deliver tangible support for steel making in the UK.
Rickhuss said unions expect Tata to make good on their promises and deliver the investment plan for the whole of their steel business.
Dave Hulse, National Officer for GMB, also said: “Now that steel workers have done their bit, it is time for the government step up and do theirs.”
He further said thousands of skilled jobs rely on steelmaking and the industry supports the whole UK manufacturing sector.
“Instead of insulting steel workers by classing their industry as a ‘low priority’, the government set out a strategy for steel that recognises it as a high priority for investment and innovation,” Hulse added.