Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24087

Posted on 9 December 2016 at 12:37 GMT

Tata Steel workers marching outside parliament, 25.5.16, photo Scott Jones

Tata Steel workers marching outside parliament, 25.5.16, photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Nationalise Tata Steel to save jobs and pensions

Alec Thraves

The announcement that Tata Steel and the leaders of the steel unions have potentially reached an agreement to stop the closure of the Port Talbot works and the other Welsh and UK plants has understandably been greeted with enormous relief by the local community. It has been politically impossible for governments in Westminster and Cardiff to stand idly by and let these works close, particularly emphasising the weakness of the crisis-ridden Tories.

However, Tata's decision to reverse its planned closure by committing to keep the two blast furnaces operating for five years, 'seeking' to avoid compulsory redundancies for the same period and also investing 1 billion over the next 10 years, comes with a poisonous sting in the tail. The company also wants to make a further 10 million saving as part of this deal. This will come from downgrading terms and conditions which hasn't been discussed yet.

Tata wants to close down the final salary British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) and replace it with an inferior Defined Contribution Scheme. 130,000 present and past employees are members of the BSPS and could face a huge cut to their pension entitlement. Understandably, workers are torn but angry. Reflecting this, the unions will now put the 'rescue package' of proposals to the workforce, without a recommendation.

One steelworker told the Socialist:

"I'm not sure of the potential losses that will be felt due to the scheme closing but part of last year's pension settlement was that it was 'agreed' that the ability of workers to take early retirement at 60 and not suffer any financial penalties was given up. It was replaced with: workers who wished to and were financially able, could retire at 60 but lose 25% of their pension - despite the unions all saying no steel worker should ever have to do that.

"When the scheme closes we will all become deferred pensioners of the BSPS and will have to wait until 65 to claim our pension. There will not be the option of taking it early with the financial hit. Some have already taken their 'pot' out of the BSPS and I think more will follow before the scheme is closed, as my understanding is once the scheme is closed your 'pot' is locked in till 65.

"The mood in the plant I work in is very negative, disheartened etc. Most people have only just come round to accepting working five years longer in this tough industry or losing 25% of their hard-earned money and despite agreeing to this the company once again wants the scheme closed.

"Most people I have spoken to feel that with the BSPS closed Tata will probably sell us off pretty quickly. We are all too well aware that a guarantee from the company is no guarantee at all! The media has been really positive about this offer and there are worries that steel workers will look very ungrateful if they don't accept the offer that is on the table."

18 months ago, steelworkers voted for strike action when Tata threatened the closure of the BSPS. Now Tata has come back again, only this time the implied threat is accept pension cuts or face potential closure of the plant!

In April, at a protest march and rally in Port Talbot organised by the National Shop Stewards Network, the main demand put forward by the protesters was to 'Nationalise Tata to Save Steel'. This demand gained a big echo amongst steelworkers and their community who had no confidence in the Tata board to save their jobs.

NSSN march for nationalisaton of steel industry, Port Talbot, 2.4.16, photo Ken Smith

NSSN march for nationalisaton of steel industry, Port Talbot, 2.4.16, photo Ken Smith   (Click to enlarge)

It could and should have been the platform for a serious struggle led by the steel unions to win this outcome. Partial nationalisation was even accepted by the Tory government as well as Labour MPs and Welsh Assembly Members who recognised the political and social explosion that would occur if the plant was left to go under. But while the leaders of the steel unions passively went along with this idea, they refused to really campaign by mobilising their members and the community to force the government to take the plants over.

Instead in reality, they have been reduced to trying to come to an agreement acceptable to Tata or failing that, to find a private buyer.

If Tata can renege on its long standing pension scheme agreement then what are the chances of Tata standing by its 'commitment' to keep the furnaces firing, promising no compulsory redundancies or continuing the investment plans?

In an economically and socially depressed town like Port Talbot, the wage rates of full time employees in Tata, which are at least double the minimum wage, are an extremely rare exception. No doubt the Tata executives have taken this into account when deciding to close the BSPS. Many workers will be torn at the prospect of seeing their pension agreement ripped up or alternatively possibly losing their jobs.

Many steelworkers have no confidence or trust in Tata to honour its long term commitments in Port Talbot and elsewhere.

Instead of standing to one side and cowardly offering no recommendation to their members, the leaders of the steel unions should be demanding the nationalisation of steel under democratic workers' control and management as the only real chance of securing the hard won British steel pension scheme and guaranteeing the long term future of the UK steel industry.


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 9 December 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Port Talbot:

triangleTata pension deal: 'Gun to the head' offer accepted

triangleSteely opposition growing to Tata pension offer

triangleWelsh Assembly elections: A working class voice to say 'save our steel!'

Steel:

triangleObituary: John Sharpe: 1953-2016

Pensions:

trianglePensions strikes continue at BMW

triangleWorkers fight back against race to the bottom!

trianglePensions strike at Rolls Royce

Nationalise:

triangleCuts, profit and bureaucracy lead to 50% rise in mental health deaths

triangle900 carers quit a day - nationalise social care now

Jobs:

triangleDWP announces office closures and job losses

Pension:

triangleBMW strikers determined to win pensions dispute

Unions:

triangleCourt victory for PCS and all trade unions

Nationalisation:

triangleBlairite EU rebellion: no to the bosses' Single Market

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

21/7/17

Barts

Support Barts NHS striking cleaners and porters!

21/7/17

London

Grenfell survivors tell Tories: "Step down and resign"

20/7/17

London

Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations meeting reveals huge anger of tenants

14/7/17

Waltham Forest

Support the Bart's strikers

14/7/17

Tesco

10% pay increase accompanied by cuts and job losses

13/7/17

Wales

Bron Afon workers fight 3,000 pay cut

13/7/17

West London

Vigil for Grenfell

12/7/17

Wales

DWP announces office closures and job losses

12/7/17

Leeds

Leeds campaigns to save NHS on its 69th birthday

12/7/17

Huddersfield

Huddersfield parties in the park to save hospital A&E

12/7/17

Pride

Fighting corporate takeover at London Pride

12/7/17

Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest - fighting school cuts

12/7/17

Southampton

Southampton Labour must reverse devastating council cuts

12/7/17

The Socialist

The Socialist spring offensive

12/7/17

Durham

Durham TAs reject council's pay offer

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle25 Jul Court victory for PCS and all trade unions

Unite Barts NHS cleaners and porters strike demo July 15

triangle21 Jul Support Barts NHS striking cleaners and porters!

triangle21 Jul Grenfell survivors tell Tories: 'Step down and resign'

triangle20 Jul Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations meeting reveals huge anger...

On the joint Junior doctors and teachers demonstration 26-4-16, photo by Paul Mattsson

triangle19 Jul Education cuts: Tories buckling under public pressure

triangle14 Jul 10% pay increase accompanied by cuts and job losses

triangle12 Jul DWP announces office closures and job losses

More ...

triangle25 Jul Derby Socialist Party: Mother Jones - US labour pioneer

triangle26 Jul Caerphilly Socialist Party: Global socialism - Report from CWI school

triangle26 Jul Hackney Socialist Party: Racism in the US and Britain

triangle27 Jul Swansea Socialist Party: Building a Marxist International

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2