GMB and over unions in the steel industry are now preparing to ballot their members for industrial action as senior managers from Tata Steel announced their intention on 13 March to close the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to future accrual. The decision was communicated to a mass meeting of trade union representatives GMB, Unite and Community from across Tata Steel’s UK operations which was held at TUC Congress House in London. As of December 2014, the British Steel Pension Scheme had 143,000 members, with 17,004 making up employee members and 91,264 making up pensioner members. As of November 2014, the assets of the scheme were valued at around £13.6 billion and continue to increase.
David Hulse, GMB National Officer, said “Tata Steel’s decision to close the BSPS is unnecessary and profoundly disappointing. It is not a position we expected to find ourselves in given that trade unions have been in discussions with the company since early November. Throughout a long process we have acted in good faith and negotiated constructively in trying to reach an agreement which addresses what we acknowledge to be a significant deficit in the scheme. We have made every effort to compromise with the company, even discussing the possibility of meeting the deficit through changes to member benefits, despite the fact the company is legally obliged to pay for the deficit and has always done so in the past.
Sadly, the company rejected this offer out of hand. It appears they are hellbent on closing the scheme and are not prepared to compromise. We have lost all faith in the company and its leadership, which has brought us to the brink of a major national industrial dispute for the first time in over 30 years. The senior management of Tata Steel Europe should seriously consider their positions for bringing about this total breakdown in trust. We feel we have no option but to consult our members and prepare to ballot for industrial action to defend their hard won pension rights.”