17,000 Tata Steel workers in the UK will halt the country’s steel industry on 22 June in a strike rejecting proposed pension cuts.
The first national steel strike in the UK for 35 years received strong support in strike ballots of the four major unions at Tata: Community, Unite, GMB and UCATT. Community, Unite and GMB are affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union. UCATT organizes construction workers and affiliates to the Building and Woodworkers’ International.
The largest union at Tata Steel UK is Community, whose members voted 88 per cent in favour of strike action.
Tata Steel UK’s pension deficit has dramatically increased since 2011, and despite considerable worker concessions during the financial crisis, Tata is attempting to make workers foot the bill for the pension fund deficit.
IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina wrote to Tata Steel Chairman Cyrus Mistry to call the company back to the negotiating table and bargain a fair solution with IndustriALL’s affiliates:
Tata prides itself as the world’s most ethical company, but its decision to shut down the British Steel Pension Scheme to future accrual, means that workers and their families, who are the backbone of the company, will suffer financially in their retirement. This decision is in full contradiction with Tata’s own values, plus the company’s refusal to engage with the unions in meaningful dialogue has meant that steelworkers have no alternative but to take industrial actions to defend their hard-won pension rights.
General Secretary Raina also stressed to the company that the UK unions have been ready to discuss alternative measures since last November. The four unions have offered Tata pension savings of £850 million (US$1.3 billion).
IndustriALL’s Executive Committee meeting in Stockholm, Sweden on 19 to 20 May 2015, unanimously backed the British steel workers in their fight to protect their pensions. IndustriALL raised the issue at the OECD on 11-12 May.
Because of the labour intensive work in the steel industry, with long hard shifts, workers were always allowed to retire at 60 years old on a full pension. Tata’s closing of the British Steel pension scheme would make workers lose 25 per cent of their pensions, unless they work an extra five years, losing 5 per cent per year.
Tata Steel UK has four sites in Wales: Port Talbot, Llanwern, Shotton and Trostre, as well as Motherwell in Scotland, and Corby, Scunthorpe, Redcar, Rotherham, Hartlepool, Walsall and Wednesbury in England.