MP to meet steel bosses over pensions move

AN MP has called on steel giant Tata to rethink plans to scrap its pension scheme in a letter asking for a meeting with the company chairman.

John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, has asked for a meeting with Tata Steel’s chairman Cyrus Mistry.

Mr Healey is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for steel and MP covering the company’s Aldwarke plant, which employs workers from the Dearne Valley and around South Yorkshire.

Tata’s plans to close its final salary scheme to fresh accrual mean future contributions could go into a money purchase scheme, leaving members with the extra risk of having to buy an annuity.

In his letter, Mr Healey he has called on Mr Mistry to meet MPs concerned about the “crisis” at the company.

Mr Healey said the announcement about the pension scheme was “a very bitter blow to the workforce that have been so committed to the company and so loyal”.

Trade unions have said they were willing to meet a £988 million deficit through reductions in members’ benefits — even though the company is legally obliged to pay for the deficit and has done so in the past.

The Wentworth and Dearne MP added that UK steelworkers “deserve and expected better” from management and he urged the chairman to personally review the approach and intervene.

Steel unions are now preparing to ballot their members for industrial action. Currently the final salary scheme is thought to be worth around £13.6 billion.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the Community trade union and chairman of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee, which includes national representatives from Community, Unite and the GMB said it appears the company was “hell-bent on closing the scheme and not prepared to compromise” after rejecting union proposals.

Tata Steel will began a statutory 60-day consultation about the changes on this week and is proposing closure of the scheme next April.

A company spokesman said: “We proposed changes to the defined benefit scheme which we believe would have had a balanced impact across our UK employees.”