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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 November 2016

Steel workers' pensions under threat again

Port Talbot steelworks, photo Grubb (Creative Commons)

Port Talbot steelworks, photo Grubb (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Welsh steel worker and Unite member

Once again steel workers have been left reeling, bitterly disappointed and suffering from a deep sense of betrayal, since it was announced that Tata Steel will be closing the British Steel pension scheme in January.

Only in May 2015 steel workers voted to take industrial action, which would have resulted in the first major strike the industry had seen in 35 years, as a last resort in the bitter dispute with the company to keep the pension scheme open.

In that dispute the company threatened to close the pension scheme unless steel workers agreed to an erosion of their already weakened terms and conditions. When rumours spread of the possibility of plant closures if steel workers failed to agree to the company's unreasonable demands, unfortunately many historically hard fought for terms and conditions were given up.

A recovery plan drawn up in 2011 saw Tata agreeing to meet its legal obligations by paying in monies at intervals to address the deficit in the scheme. Now it appears that in a highly cynical move, the company will close the scheme, enabling it to eschew its obligations to its workforce and their families despite the dramatic improvement in the health of the scheme.

Health

Many retired steel workers, having given up their health in the tough, demanding industry, are suffering mentally and emotionally, having also been left in the dark as to how this bad news could affect them and their dependants.

This struggle will be only too familiar to hard-working junior doctors, firefighters, teaching assistants and many other workers up and down Tory Britain.

Very soon the time will come when steel workers will have to decide whether to continue in the race to the bottom as far as terms and conditions are concerned or organise, resist and fight to retain what is left of the previously hard fought-for pensions and terms and conditions.

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