This is the full statement published by Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock after the future of thousands of steelworkers’ pensions were secured when Tata agreed to separate its British pension scheme from the rest of the company, which could pave the way for a merger with ThyssenKrupp.
Today’s news brings a welcome end to the uncertainty faced by 130,000 current and former steelworkers, their families and steel communities across Britain, including the thousands involved in the steel and connected industries in my Aberavon constituency.
The Port Talbot Steelworks is the beating heart of our local economy and community, so the past 18 months have been particularly tough for our town.
Since those dark days of last March, when I travelled out to Mumbai with Community Union for crisis talks with Tata, the employees of Tata Steel UK, their families and our steel communities have been through hell.
But because of the dedication and commitment of the workforce we have seen the business turn around and return to profitability. And with February’s vote in favour of the changes that have been announced today, there can be no questioning their unmatched commitment to seeing the survival and success of the British steel industry.
It is now vital that the trustees provide all the necessary information to the BSPS members, so as to enable them to make the right decision for themselves and their families. Unless this information and guidance is forthcoming, many BSPS members will face ongoing uncertainty about what is the best course of action to secure and maximise their retirement income.
And it is important to remember agreement to these pension changes was contingent upon substantial investment from Tata.
It is vital that Tata follow through on their £1bn investment plan to ensure Port Talbot and downstream sites remain at the leading edge of 21st century steel-making, to secure the future of both Port Talbot’s blast furnaces, and that the jobs guarantee placing the British workforce on the same footing as their Dutch colleagues, avoiding compulsory redundancies, is implemented.
These pension changes have been a bitter pill to swallow for the workforce and pensioners, but this is about securing the future of the British steel industry. And so there can be no equivocation from Tata when it comes to delivering on their side of the deal.
And there can be no more excuses from the government for their continued inaction. By accepting these changes, current and former British steelworkers have shown the lengths that they are willing to go to to protect and defend this vital foundational industry.
Their commitment must be matched by the government. Let us not forget, the government never even published their response to the consultation on these changes to the BSPS, they have ignored calls from the workforce and industry for action on Chinese dumping and have yet to take any action to bring down energy prices for steelworks, which are up to 20 per cent higher than those of our competitors.
And the government has also continued to betray British steelworkers by using foreign steel for core national defence assets, such as the next generation of Royal Navy frigates.
Unless and until the government show even a fraction of the commitment to British steel industry that has been shown by the workforce these past few months, our industry will not be able to fulfill its full potential.
We may be out of the crisis, but without meaningful action and a change in approach from the government to support our steel industry we risk future uncertainty. That is why the government should today take inspiration from the men and women of Port Talbot and steel communities right across the United Kingdom, by taking concrete steps to Save Our Steel.