UK unions call off strike at Tata Steel, agree on new pension offer

A group of four trade unions in the UK have deferred a strike action planned at Tata Steel's UK plants for next week and have instead recommended that their members accept the company's new pension offer.

Trade unions representing workers of Tata Steel UK had announced strike action on 22 June the biggest industrial action in the UK in nearly three decades -- over the proposed changes in the firm's pension scheme.

Tata Steel has a workforce of over 17,000 people across sites in Wales and around England.

Earlier this week, Unions -- Community, Unite, Ucatt and GMB -- had temporarily suspended industrial action at Tata Steel, but the plan for strike action on 22 June had remained unchanged.

"Steel unions - Community, Unite, GMB and UCATT - have suspended Monday's strike action at Tata Steel," a joint statement said.

Tata Steel UK also said the trade unions have lifted the one-day strike scheduled for Monday and have agreed to defer the industrial action announced last week until the unions have consulted their members on the modification proposal.

The four unions are preparing for a fresh ballot of their members over the offer, which would keep their final salary pension scheme open.

''Our members will make the final decision but the unions are recommending a vote in favour because we believe we have secured the best available deal from the company,'' said Roy Rickhuss, chair of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee and general secretary of Community.

The call by the unions could avert the first major steel strike planned in the UK in more than 30 years.

The four unions represent Tata Steel UK's 17,000-strong workforce.

Tata had earlier this year announced plans to close the pension scheme and move staff to a defined contribution programme. The changes would also have seen the retirement age lifted from 60 to 65.

It is understood that the new deal would involve alterations to the final salary scheme that would help eliminate Tata Steel's pension deficit, which is thought to be in the region of £2 billion.

A Tata Steel spokesman said, "We are pleased that a meeting of trade union delegates from Tata Steel sites across the UK today agreed to recommend to members a proposal which would enable UK employees to retain a modified final salary pension scheme.

"The decision recognises the substantial shortfall in the pension fund and the need to jointly address it, given the challenging business environment in the UK. The recommended proposal includes fair and balanced modifications to existing scheme arrangements to achieve this. We believe that the proposal continues to provide employees with a high-quality pension.

"The trade unions have lifted the one-day strike scheduled for Monday June 22 and have extended the suspension of industrial action announced last week until after the unions have consulted their members on the modification proposal.

"The company hopes employees will recognise this recommendation as a positive way forward on pensions provision and one that gives us an opportunity to continue to work together to return the UK business to a profitable and sustainable future."