Published: Thu, February 16, 2017
Health | By Bessie Ortiz

Tata Steel unveils UK's biggest robotic welding line

Tata Steel unveils UK's biggest robotic welding line

Workers faced losing their jobs when Tata's United Kingdom business was put up for sale in March, amid falling steel prices.

Tata Steel had offered workers to keep both blast furnaces at Port Talbot open for at least five years with no compulsory redundancies, and plans to invest £1 billion over a 10-year period, in return for reforms that would de-risk its pension liabilities.

At the end of January, the Indian conglomerate giant, which employs approximately 8,000 jobs across Britain, proposed to invest approximately £1bn ($1.3bn) over the next 10 years to save its United Kingdom business, including the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales.

His members supported the pension offer with 76% voting in favour, while GMB union steelworkers also voted in favour by 74%.

However, this investment depends on spinning off the pension fund behind Tata Steel UK into a separate entity and replacing the final salary pension scheme with a less generous contribution scheme.

Community general secretary Roy Rickhus said: "Steelworkers have taken a tough decision and have shown they are determined to safeguard jobs and secure the long-term future of steelmaking". "It is vital we work together to protect the benefits already accrued and prevent the BSPS from free-falling into the PPF", he added, referring to the U.K's Pension Protection Fund, that covers members of pension schemes that fall into insolvency.

"We acknowledge the result of the trade unions' ballot", said a spokesperson for Tata Steel. He also called on Tata to "repay those sacrifices" through "honouring its commitments on investment and job security". The union's national officer, Tony Brady, said that the past year for members had been "a hellish time ... as uncertainty has swirled around the steel industry", adding that "this is not a decision our members have taken lightly".

"Thousands of jobs will be lost, in particular in supporting departments, and the move is not an answer to the overcapacity in the steel industry", the Ijmuiden Central Works Council said in a document leaked to S&P Global Platts. "Instead of insulting steelworkers by classing their industry as a "low priority", the government set out a strategy for steel that recognises it as a high priority for investment and innovation".

Tata Steel plays a key role in the United Kingdom automotive manufacturing industry which past year built 1.7 million cars, nearly 80 per cent of those being exported. Tata Steel, which owns the UK's largest steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales among other units, has been working on finding a solution to the crisis in the steel industry since it announced a major restructuring in March 2016.

"Locally I will continue to do everything I can to ensure the profitable and successful Tata Shotton plant, its management and workers are supported", he said.

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