A possible merger between Indian and German steel giants Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp moves a step closer, claims a report by the BBC, as Tata announces its intention to separate its UK pension scheme from the business, paving the way for a deal between the two steelmakers.
Ever since the Indian steelmaker announced its intention in March 2016 to pull out of the UK – citing high energy costs and business rates – the British steel industry has been in turmoil. But as the dust slowly begins to settle and various businesses have been sold off, a possible merger between Tata Steel Europe and ThyssenKrupp might be back on the cards now that Tata's £15 billion pension scheme issue has been resolved.
There are 130,000 members of Tata's pension scheme in England and Wales, including 3,500 working at the Port Talbot plant in South Wales.
According to the BBC News report, Tata Steel UK has offered to pay £550 into it's now-closed pension scheme and give the fund a 33% stake in the UK Business. In a nutshell, Tata relinquishes all respsonsiblity for the pension, but there won't be any reduction in lump sums already built up. "Future pension increases for current and retired steelworkers will be less under the new scheme" claims the BBC report.
Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, home of the Port Talbot Steelworks, commented: “Today’s news brings a welcome end to the uncertainty faced by 130,000 current and former steelworkers, their families and steel communities across Britain, including the thousands involved in the steel and connected industries in my Aberavon constituency.
“The Port Talbot Steelworks is the beating heart of our local economy and community, so the past 18 months have been particularly tough for our town," said Kinnock, adding: “Since those dark days of last March, when I travelled out to Mumbai with Community Union for crisis talks with Tata, the employees of Tata Steel UK, their families and our steel communities have been through hell."
Kinnock said that the dedication and commitment of the workforce has turned the business around and returned it to profitability. "And with February’s vote in favour of the changes that have been announced today, there can be no questioning their unmatched commitment to seeing the survival and success of the British steel industry."
He was scathing of the British Government, claiming it has continued to betray British steelworkers by using foreign steel for core national defence assets.
"Unless and until the government show even a fraction of the commitment to British steel industry that has been shown by the workforce these past few months, our industry will not be able to fulfill its full potential.
A joint statement from the GMB, Unite and Community unions, stated “We welcome the RAA [Regulated Apportionment Arrangement] announcement which includes a commitment that Tata will stand behind a new scheme with reduced annual increases.
"For over a year our members have feared for their security in retirement, and this announcement helps to bring that uncertainty to an end.
“We fought to ensure that our members can choose whether they want to transfer to a new modified scheme, underpinned by Tata, or to remain in the BSPS [British Steel Pension Scheme] and therefore receive PPF [Pension Protection Fund] compensation.
"Now that this choice has been delivered, the company and the trustees must step up to provide the necessary information and guidance to enable every member to make an informed decision in their best interests.
“Our members have been extremely disappointed at the unacceptable lack of communication in recent months, and this has to change immediately.
"The company and the trustees must remember they are dealing with people’s long term future, their life savings, and their family’s financial security; it is vital members are given all the support that they need.”
“We may be out of the crisis, but without meaningful action and a change in approach from the government to support our steel industry we risk future uncertainty. That is why the government should today take inspiration from the men and women of Port Talbot and steel communities right across the United Kingdom, by taking concrete steps to Save Our Steel.”