Tata Steel Europe faces workers strike as all unions vote for industrial action

Tata Steel Europe is bracing for a workers strike after members of a fourth and final union representing Tata Steel employees in the UK also voted in favour of strike action over the company's plan to alter a British Steel Pension Scheme.

Tata Steel, however, looked unnerved by the strike threat by the steel unions, saying that it would not have any immediate impact on the operations of Tata Steel Europe  or on the company's sales as the producer will be having adequate inventories that can last at least for a fortnight.

Seventy per cent of Unite, which represents around 6,000 Tata Steel workers, or just over a third of the company's UK workforce, have voted for industrial action, following the ballot, which closed on Friday.

Three other unions, Community, UCATT and GMB, representing over 6,000 workers, have already voted for strike action.

The workers are against the steel giant's plans to close their existing pension scheme in the face of an estimated £2 billion deficit, and replace it with a defined contribution scheme.

The dispute is over the existing British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) being replaced with a "money purchase" pension scheme, which primarily hikes the retirement age from 60 to 65. The four steel unions have already offered pension savings of £850 million to the company after five months of intensive negotiations. Despite this Tata Steel UK wants employees to work an extra five years until they are 65 to receive their full pension.

Tata Steel, however, complains that the pension scheme's assets have not been growing fast enough to keep up with increases in the expected cost of providing benefits, resulting in a huge shortfall of up to £2 billion which is not sustainable

Unions have so far been cautious about going for strike and final details of their plan are likely to emerge after all four unions meet on Monday.

Any action would have to take place within four weeks of 29 May, the date of the first set of ballot results.

Tata Steel described the latest results as ''disappointing.'' ''Less than half of our workforce actually voted for strike action and less than half of Unite union's members who were balloted voted for it,'' the company said.

Tata has offered to talk and find ways to mitigate the impact of some aspects of the proposed scheme and consulted employees on a voluntary retirement option.