Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/594/8177
Battle over pensions means strike threat at Corus
Around 200 delegates from the four main steel unions: Community, Unite, SIMA and GMB gathered at TUC Congress house last week to decide a response to the announcement by Corus to close the British Steel pension scheme to new entrants.
Corus, which is owned by TATA Steel, originally announced its intention of attacking the final salary scheme last January but buried it behind the loss of 3,500 jobs.
Delegates debated for a couple of hours before voting unanimously for a resolution proposed by representatives from Teesside: "The Steel Committee delegates utterly condemn Corus for its disgraceful and unnecessary attack on our pension scheme. We call upon all our constituent unions to take any action necessary to stop this, including a national ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action."
In August the company began what it considers to be a consultation process. This amounted to letters being sent to all employees asking for their response to the proposed closure.
They received over 1,500 replies; all but 14 of those were opposed to the scheme being closed to new entrants.
The company simply ignored this and announced that on 21 September the scheme would close to new employees who would be offered a defined contribution scheme.
This is a clear example of yet another company using the recession as an excuse to attack the terms and conditions of its employees. The scheme at this moment is 100% funded and is reviewed every three years so that knee jerk reactions to short term difficulties are not made. The next review will be in March 2011 when the recession is predicted to be over.
Closure of the scheme to new joiners is the beginning of the end for the final salary pension for steelworkers. Very soon after purchasing Tetley Tea, TATA closed the pension scheme there, saying it was not a viable option.
The steel unions must now show the company that they mean business and have the resolve for a fight. Members must be fully informed and the message that enough is enough must be made clear to workers who have seen in the last 12 months cuts in overtime, shift payments, jobs and the illegal non-payment of bonus.
TATA Steel proudly boast that in 100 years they have never had a blast furnace operation shut down due to industrial action. This is now under severe threat unless the company backs away from attacking the workforce.
In The Socialist 23 September 2009:
War and occupation
Postal workers strike
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news
Socialist Party workplace news
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