Tata Steel workers in the UK on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of a rescue plan put forward by the steel giant that will secure their jobs. Nearly 10,000 were voting in a ballot over the past few weeks.
Members of workers' unions at sites in Wales, Scotland, South Yorkshire and Teesside all supported the new proposals. Voting figures from Community union members showed 72 per cent in favour and 28 per cent against the changes; there was 76 per cent to 24 per cent split among Unite members; and a 74 per cent to 26 per cent divide at the GMB union.
"This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS)," Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said.
"Steel workers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking. Nobody wanted to be in this situation, but as we have always said, it is vital that we now work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF," he added.
Tony Brady, National Officer for Unite, said steel workers made great sacrifices to ensure the UK's world class steel industry has a future.
"Those sacrifices must be repaid by Tata Steel honouring its commitments on investment and job security. Nothing less would be a betrayal and add to the deep mistrust that steel workers now have for the company," he said.
In return for reforms that would de-risk its pension liabilities, Tata Steel had offered workers to keep both blast furnaces at Port Talbot running for at least five years with no compulsory redundancies. It also planned to invest one billion pound over a 10-year period.
"The UK government in Westminster must also repay the sacrifices and the commitment shown by steel workers to their industry by stepping up to support steel and secure its future," Brady said.
The UK government must now work in lockstep with the Welsh Government and put steel at the heart of a manufacturing industrial strategy which ensures UK steel is used in all major infrastructure and defence projects, he said.
"This ballot involved an extremely personal decision for everyone that voted. Whichever way our members cast their votes, we know they will not have taken that decision lightly and everyone's opinions must be respected," Rickhuss said.
Adding that the British government still has an important role to play, he expected them to deliver tangible support for steel making in the UK.
Rickhuss said that unions expect Tata to make good on their promises and deliver the investment plan for the whole of their steel business.
Dave Hulse, National Officer for GMB, also said: "Now that steel workers have done their bit, it is time for the government step up and do theirs."
He further said thousands of skilled jobs rely on steelmaking and the industry supports the whole UK manufacturing sector.
"Instead of insulting steel workers by classing their industry as a 'low priority', the government set out a strategy for steel that recognises it as a high priority for investment and innovation," Hulse added.
Tata Steel, which owns the UK's largest steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales among other units, was working on finding a solution to the crisis in the industry since it announced a major restructuring in March 2016.
With Agency Inputs