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Step in the right direction

Unions secure Tata Steel jobs commitments
Alex Flynn, Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Unite along with other steel unions have yesterday (December 7) secured a commitment from Tata Steel to secure the future of jobs and production at Port Talbot and other steelworks across the UK. This proposal comes eight months after Tata announced its original intention to sell its UK steel assets. For the past year, steel unions have run a high profile ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign which has engaged tens of thousands of people in steel communities across the country.



Senior union reps from every affected steelworks in the UK met with Tata Steel executives in Port Talbot today to discuss the latest proposal. Full details of the proposal will be communicated directly to members, but the significant elements are:



• Production – A guaranteed minimum five year commitment to two blast furnace steel making, with a further commitment to reinvest in Blast Furnace 5 as part of a Capex investment plan.



• Jobs – A jobs pact equivalent to Tata’s agreement with steelworkers at Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, which includes a commitment to seek to avoid any compulsory redundancies for five years.



• Investment – A comprehensive ten year £1bn investment plan to support steel making at Port Talbot and secure the future of the downstream sites.



• Pension – Tata Steel will begin a consultation on the closure of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual, replacing it with a defined contribution scheme with maximum contributions of 10 per cent from the company and 6 per cent from employees.



These significant commitments on production, jobs and investment are welcome, however the move to close the BSPS will clearly be of serious concern to all members. After a detailed discussion, union reps have agreed to ballot all members on the proposal in the new year.



This proposal represents a significant shift in Tata’s opening offer which included no detailed investment plan, no jobs guarantee, no commitment to two blast furnaces, and the closure of the BSPS with a new pension scheme with contributions of only 3 per cent from the company and 3 per cent from employees.



“This news it a step in the right direction for our industry but there is still a lot more that government can and must do,” said Unite national officer Tony Brady. “The Tories say they are committed to an industrial strategy, but steelworkers need more than warm words.



“The commitments made yesterday by our reps must now be followed by a commitment from the government that they will hold Tata to their word and ensure jobs are protected,” he added. “The UK steel industry supports our whole manufacturing sector and it is vitally important that the future of that industry is secured for generations to come.”
Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss called the past year “incredibly difficult for steelworkers and their families.



“When Tata announced in March that they planned to sell the steelworks, no one knew if they would have a job by Christmas,” he said. “This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and bring serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steelworks across the UK.



“Reaching this stage of the process is a credit to the hard work of our members who never gave up the fight to ‘Save Our Steel’ – it was their jobs on the line and it has been their campaign that has brought Tata to this position.



“This is not the end of the process and it will be for all our members to now vote on this proposal,” he added. “We will continue to work closely with Tata and all levels of government as we seek to build a sustainable future for Britain’s steel industry.



“We recognise that today’s announcement does not cover the Speciality Steels business in South Yorkshire or the SAW mills in Hartlepool. We will continue to work hard with the companies involved to secure the investment necessary to ensure those businesses grow and that our members are protected.”



GMB national officer Dave Hulse highlighted that the agreement would mean the blast furnaces at Port Talbot keep making steel and that steelworks across the UK get the investment they need to compete in the future.



“We’ve fought hard to save jobs and today’s agreement is a credit to our members,” he said.



“Today’s news is a step forward, but there is still much to be done. We will continue to fight for a level playing field for our industry; for action on energy costs, on business rates, and on the dumping of foreign steel.”


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