Jobs safe after workers vote yes to Tata steel rescue deal

Thousands of steelworkers have agreed to a rescue deal with Tata, the company that owns the Port Talbot steel plant, reports Sky News.

A ballot has been open to 10,000 members of staff for the last two weeks, with sources telling Sky News that it has caused friction between the unions and employees.

Around a quarter of those who voted at each union said no to the proposals.

The deal agreed on Wednesday will safeguard thousands of jobs and will guarantee £1bn worth of investment over the next ten years.

It comes at a price to peoples’ pensions though it should help avoid the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) from having to be taken over by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) lifeboat scheme.

The final salary scheme will now close and a defined contribution scheme will be set up in its place.

Voting figures from Community union members showed 72 per cent in favour and 28 per cent against the changes, with a 76% to 24% split among Unite members and a 74 per cent to 26 per cent divide at the GMB.

Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking.

“Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF.”

Michael Hutil, who has worked at the plant for decades, told Sky News: “They should have voted against it. I put 26 years into that plant so it’s a big part of my working life.”

“I think we deserve, with the effort we put in over the years, that we are not penalised in our retirement,” he added.

Some steel workers have said they’ve lost trust in the unions and feel that they have been “sold down the river”.

It is understood that younger workers were keen to agree a deal with Tata, whilst those approaching retirement voted against it.

Councillor Tony Taylor, who worked at the steelworks for more than 40 years, told Sky News: “If I was a young man with a family, I would have voted ‘Yes’. You can’t blame them. They have to protect the future of their family.

“The primary concern of having a job overrides everything else, but I hope Tata can step up to the plate and give guarantees”.

There have been months of uncertainty in Port Talbot. Workers faced losing their jobs when Tata’s UK business was put up for sale in March, amid falling steel prices.

The UK and Welsh governments stepped in to offer financial support, but the company’s pension scheme put buyers off.

In recent weeks, politicians have waded into the debate, with one urging workers to vote against a deal with Tata.

Although today’s result will secure jobs, it will undoubtedly result in smaller pension payouts.

Analyst Laith Khalaf said: “You can’t get away from the fact that it is going to mean smaller pensions for those workers involved.

“If they didn’t take up this deal they could have ended up with smaller pensions anyway because the company could have folded and the pension scheme may have ended up in the pension lifeboat and that would have meant smaller pensions in any case”.

Now that the rescue package has been approved, there has been speculation that Tata Steel will look to complete a merger of its European operations with ThyssenKrupp, the German industrial conglomerate.

A Government spokesman 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.”