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Steel trade unions welcome Tata pension law consultation

The steel trade unions have welcomed the Government's consultation on changes to pensions law as part of efforts to save Tata Steel and called on the company to uphold its "legal, social and moral responsibilities" to steel workers.

In a combined statement, Community, Unite and GMB endorsed the move to avoid the "unmitigated disaster" of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) going into the financial safety net of the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) with a sale of Tata's assets.

It is important that all stakeholders continue to explore all available options that avoid the need for the scheme to go into the PPF, which would be the worst deal for scheme members.

It is important to remember that Tata Steel remains the employer and sponsor of the BSPS. They have significant legal, social and moral responsibilities with regards to the British steel industry and those men and women who have worked and continue to work within it.

– Community, Unite and GMB
Steel unions said they would continue to be 'led by our members' in the industry. Credit: PA Wire

The Human Resources director for Tata Steel's European operations said the consultation would enable a "better outcome" for the vast majority of members of the BSPS.

We welcome the inclusion of an option to change the way that future payments in the scheme are increased. This option, which is fully supported by the pension scheme's trustees, provides a way for the scheme to continue to operate on a well-funded, low-risk basis indefinitely.

The British Steel Pension Scheme was set up on the basis that pension increases would be provided so long as they remained affordable. The proposed legislative changes would allow this unusual rule to operate as intended. That means it's unlikely that a regulatory change would affect other final salary pension schemes.

– Tor Farquhar, Human Resources director for Tata Steel's European operations

Javid 'wary of precedent' amid Tata pensions consultation

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed the Government is set to launch an "open consultation" on changes to pensions law as part of efforts to save Tata Steel despite being "very wary of setting a precedent".

The consultation, which will run until June 23, sets out a number of different options for the British Steel Pension Scheme and its 130,000 members.

The scheme includes 14,000 people currently employed by Tata or another employer, 32,000 are deferred (no longer employed by Tata but below the scheme's normal pension age) and 84,000 pensioners.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed in the House of Commons details of the Tata consultation.

The Government has been warned against the impact of setting a precedent by seeking to change pension law.

"No decision (on Tata's future) has been made," Mr Javid told MPs. "We are very wary of setting a precedent ... this is very much about this scheme and this scheme only in these very unique circumstances."

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle warned against cutting the fund's long-term liabilities by benchmarking it to the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the higher retail price index (RPI), saying: "This change is currently illegal."

Government told to 'take responsibility' over Tata pensions

The GMB union has called on the Government to "take responsibility" for the pensions of Tata Steel workers and urged against any change in laws.

Sajid Javid, seen meeting steel workers in April, is due to inform MPs on Tata negotiations after attending talks in Mumbai. Credit: PA

Ministers are considering changes to pension laws, which would leave steelworkers worse off in retirement but still fare better than many employees in other pension schemes.

GMB as a matter of policy consider that changes in pension schemes should not be retrospective and should be left to individual trustees and scheme members.

A change in law to precipitate punitive changes to accrued rights is not good for any of our members. The Government, as previous owners, has got to take responsibility as it did with Royal Mail.

– Keir Greenaway, the GMB union's national pensions officer

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Pension changes 'could adversely affect other retirement funds'

Former Minister of State for Pensions Steve Webb has issued a warning over the government's proposed changes to pensions laws.

Mr Webb said that what may initially seem appropriate to rescue Tata Steel's UK business could create an adverse knock-on effect for other pensioners.

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