The Guardian wrote:Tata Steel UK workers have voted in favour of proposals to turnaround the struggling business, potentially saving 8,000 jobs but also leading to cuts to their pension benefits.
Workers from the Community, Unite, and GMB unions all backed the plan in separate ballots. Approximately three quarters of votes supported the proposals, which involve saving the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales.
Tony Brady, national officer at Unite, said steelworkers have made “great sacrifices” to try to protect the industry’s future.
Tata Steel had proposed saving 8,000 jobs in its UK business and the Port Talbot steelworks by investing £1bn into modernising its operations over the next 10 years.
However, this investment depends on spinning off the pension fund behind Tata Steel UK into a separate entity and replacing the final salary pension scheme with a less generous contribution scheme.
The existing scheme – the British Steel pension scheme (BSPS) – could enter the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) as part of the arrangement, which would result in a 10% cut to members’ benefits. However, for this to occur Tata Steel must convince the pensions regulator that its UK business is on the brink of insolvency and is likely to have to pump hundreds of millions of cash into the scheme.
The BSPS has 130,000 members and £15bn of liabilities. It would be by far the biggest pension scheme to be taken on by the PPF.
The steel jobs have been at risk since last March when Tata Steel announced it was putting its UK business up for sale amid losses of more than £1m a day. The decision sparked a political crisis as the government scrambled to secure the future of the plant. Port Talbot is one of only two sites in Britain that makes steel in blast furnaces.
The government welcomed the result of the vote. A spokesperson said: “This positive vote is an important step forward for the future of Port Talbot and Tata Steel in the UK and it is now vital that all parties work together to deliver on the agreed proposals.
“It is testament to the commitment of its workforce that they are willing to work so constructively with the owners to secure the future of the plant. The government will play its role in supporting the steel industry to help deliver a sustainable future.”
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