Tata Steel UK workers vote for strike, but still want to negotiate

Tata Steel UK's biggest trade union has voted in favour of a strike over its dispute with the company's proposal to change the pension scheme for workers, setting the stage for the biggest industrial action in the British steel sector in three decades.

The British steel unions have 17,000 members and 88 per cent of them have voted in favour of going on strike, a statement said.

"Steelworkers are determined to stand up to Tata," said Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community.

"We stand on the brink of the first national strike in the steel industry for over 30 years," said Rickhuss, also chair of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee.

The union, however, did not set a date for a strike, but called for Tata to return to negotiations.

Results from two unions - the GMB and UCATT - were expected later on Friday while a ballot by Unite is due to close next Friday.

Tata Steel did not make any comment about the vote, but had previously stated its position that it was ready to negotiate and that the changes in the pension scheme were aimed at developing an affordable and sustainable pension scheme.

Tata Steel's UK operations as a whole were losing money and the pension scheme had a shortfall of up to 2 billion pounds.

The company had said earlier that producing steel profitably in Britain has become difficult given cheap imports and demand that has yet to recover to levels seen before the 2008 financial crisis. Also, the UK steel sector's labour, logistics and energy costs are higher even than mainland Europe, which itself struggles to compete on a global level.

The company's parent, Tata Steel Ltd, posted a $889 million quarterly loss on 20 May 20, inflated by a hefty impairment on its UK business.