A dispute over pensions at Tata Steel has led to steel unions choosing Monday 22 June as the date for the first UK steel industry strike in 35 years. Prior to that date, there will be an overtime ban and a work-to-rule, claims the Unite union.

Paul Reuter, Unite’s national officer, said that strike action was the last resort for members of the union, but added that ‘they are not prepared to stand by and see the retirement they have worked so hard for, in such a physically demanding environment, robbed from them.’

“We have offered the savings the company says it needs. Instead Tata Steel UK wants to financially penalise its workforce and force it to work another five years to get their full pension,” said Reuter.

He urged the company to do the right thing and enter into further meaningful talks to avoid the disruption of industrial action.

Roy Rickhuss, chair of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee, and general secretary of the Community trade union, said that Tata had given his members no option other than to take industrial action. “The company has not shown any willingness to return to meaningful negotiations to find an end to this dispute. Our members are determined to stand up for their pensions. They delivered a massive vote in favour of industrial action, so that is what will happen. An overtime ban and work-to-rule will cause massive disruption to Tata’s operations and severely limit production. The company could avoid this by returning to the table. But in the meantime all the unions will also be making preparations for a national day of strike action on 22 June.”

According to Dave Hulse, GMB national officer, “It’s time Tata got back round the table and looked for a way to resolve this dispute.”

Hulse added that GMB members are ready for industrial action and that the company should heed the message of their

Echoing Hulse, Ucatt’s regional secretary Nick Blundell said that Tata should recognise that to resolve this dispute and get back round the table for meaningful discussions. “Industrial action is a last resort for any union but Tata has given us no choice,” he said.

Tata employees are unhappy about the proposed removal of early retirement enhancements, the potential loss of the 'one for seven' added years, the potential impact on recruitment and retention of employees and the ability to work in physically demanding jobs beyond the age of 60.

Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel Europe's European operations, said the pension scheme has to change in order to deal with a shortfall as high as £2 billion.

"Final salary pension schemes are now something of a retirement relic with only a lucky few still benefiting nationwide. The pension pot at Tata reportedly has a £2 billion shortfall so perhaps it is not surprising that Tata are keen to move away from such an expensive form of pension scheme," said Fiona Cincotta, a senior market analyst at www.finspreads.com

Unions must give seven days’ notice of any industrial action.