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IndustriALL backs British steelworkers

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21 May, 2015IndustriALL Global Union has unanimously given its backing to British workers at Tata Steel who are fighting to keep their pensions. The endorsement came in a resolution at the Executive Committee meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday 20 May.

IndustriALL affiliates Community the union, Unite and GMB are currently balloting members within Tata Steel UK on possible industrial action following managements’ refusal to negotiate over plans to close the British Steel pension scheme.

It means employees would lose on average 25 per cent of their pension unless they retire at 65-years-old, and not 60 as they had planned.

If members approve industrial action, it will be the UK’s first national steel strike for 30 years.

Proposing the resolution, Executive Committee member Rob Johnston from Community, said:

“Tata Steel prides itself on being one of the world’s most ethical companies. However, it has started to undermine and walk away from its own values...Tata refuses to have dialogue.”

Community member Rob Middlemas has worked for 39 years at Tata’s Skinningrove steel plant in the North East of England, which was previously owned by Corus and British Steel.  He told the Executive Committee:

“We have offered a financial solution to cope with the deficit but they have chosen not to accept that solution. They have left us with no other option to ballot our members for industrial action. If we just stand back and allow them to take our biggest prize in our terms and conditions, what next?

Middlemas added that steelworkers work long and hard 12-hour shifts:

“Previously my colleagues have been allowed to retire at the age of 60 in the steel industry, which as you know is a very labour intensive.

“I’ll have to work over fifty years in the industry before I can access a full pension or I’ll lose 30 per cent if I retire at 60. We followed the government advice and paid into the pension scheme for our retirement.”

Tata Steel plans to close the existing pension scheme in April next year.

The resolution, which is part of a strategy to bring Tata back to the bargaining table, received endorsement from steelworkers in India and the USA.

In a separate statement, Unite national officer for steel Paul Reuter said:

"Following five months of intensive negotiations where the trade unions offered savings to the company of £850 million, Tata Steel UK has decided that it is ideologically wrong for employees, who have worked hard in an extremely strenuous and physically demanding environment, to be able to retire with the pensions that they were originally promised."

Earlier this month, IndustriALL raised the plight of the British steelworkers at an OECD Steel Committee meeting in Paris.

IndustriALL also plans to use its network meetings to bring unions together worldwide in support of the steelworkers.