The threat of the first major strike in Britain in nearly three decades seems to have been averted as Tata Steel UK’s workers are expected to sign a new deal to end a pensions row.
A ballot of union members closes on Wednesday (15) and is expected to deliver resounding support for the deal, according to a Sunday newspaper.
The four unions – Community, Unite, GMB and Ucatt – called off a strike last month after the Indian steel giant agreed to retain a modified final-salary pension scheme.
The unions have recommended that staff accept the deal.
Tata argued that reforms to the British Steel Pension Scheme, which has about 135,000 members and a deficit of more than £2 billion, are vital if the company is to return to profitability.
According to the newspaper, the ballot comes as Tata struggles to sell its European “long products” division, which employs about 6,500 staff and has steel plants in Scunthorpe, Teesside, Dalzell and Clydebridge in Scotland, and France and Germany.
The Scunthorpe site is the largest with about 4,000 workers.
Tata bought the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus in 2007 for £6.2bn, before the financial crisis. It had been in talks to sell the division to American tycoon Gary Klesch but those discussions stalled and the commodities billionaire lost exclusive negotiating rights.
Tata is reportedly looking at other options, including a possible sale to management, and could force through heavy cost cuts and job losses if a deal fails to materialise, the newspaper claimed.
The long products arm, which makes lengths of steel and tube for the building and rail industries, has been hit by cheap Chinese imports, Europe’s construction slump and high energy prices.