What happens in the next few weeks will determine the future of Tata Steel’s remaining UK operations. Next week, you will get a vote on that future. Even though it is less than a year since Tata first put its UK assets up for sale, it has been a long and difficult journey to get to this point. We understand you have a difficult decision to make when you cast your vote.
Today (Thursday 26 January) the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee met with over 100 of your local union representatives from across Tata Steel to discuss the proposal ahead of the ballot.
At the meeting, all representatives from every union – Unite, GMB and Community - unanimously agreed to recommend that you vote ‘YES’ to accept the proposals.
We do not make this recommendation lightly. Nobody is saying that the proposal on the table is without issues. We fully understand the concerns of members, particularly around the BSPS. But as we have said before what you are voting on is the best outcome that could be achieved through negotiation. It is our collective view, supported by our independent experts, that this is the only credible and viable way to secure the future.
Although this is a situation that we would never have wished for, it is also the only way to protect the benefits you have already accrued and to provide a chance to prevent the BSPS free-falling into the Pension Protection Fund. We should also make it clear that a ‘no’ vote will not stop the BSPS from closing to future accrual. That is our view based on what every pension expert, lawyer, consultant and BSPS Trustee has told us.
Members have made it clear that they want clear information about the proposal. This is what we have been working towards in the past few weeks.
Since the announcement on 7 December, we have been awaiting further information and clarification from the company regarding some of the small print of the proposal. As with any agreement, the devil is in the detail and some of the details have only been finalised this week.
The company has now put forward a binding Memorandum of Understanding. This covers all the areas of the proposal – production, jobs, investment and pensions. You can view a full summary of what you will be voting on, which includes details of additional ex gratia payments that will be available to members nearing retirement.
We understand that the actions of Tata Steel over the past year have damaged trust in the company. That is why we have insisted that the binding MOU is also lodged with the government to ensure that there is additional scrutiny over and above what the unions will carry out.
Over the past weeks, we have constantly listened carefully to feedback from members who have asked for their unions to make clear what our view is of the proposal.
We understand some members may be disappointed that the unions are recommending acceptance of the proposal. However, it would be an abdication of responsibility if we kept our collective opinion to ourselves when the consequences of rejecting the proposal, in our considered view, are so great.
We have deliberated the situation for many months and it is with heavy hearts that we have come to the position to recommend the proposals to you.
Companies and governments come and go but it is you as steelworkers through your trade unions who will remain the guardians of the industry.
Now you will make the final decision in the ballot.
Steve McCool, National Officer, Community
Tony Brady, National Officer, Unite
Harish Patel, National Officer, Unite
Dave Hulse, National Officer, GMB
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community, Chair, NTUSCC