Four trade unions in the steel industry have called its first national strike for 30 years against a raid on the British Steel pension scheme.
It is set to take place on Monday 22 June. An overtime ban and work to rule is set to begin next week.
Bosses at Tata Steel want to force workers to work until they are 65 to get their full pension, instead of 60.
Unite union members voted by 70 percent in support of strikes in a ballot that closed last Friday. GMB, Ucatt and the largest steel union Community had already returned votes to strike. Between them the four unions represent 17,000 steel workers.
Ian Davis, Community rep at the Tata Steel plant in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, told Socialist Worker, “People are willing to get behind the union on this because they fear the consequences of having to work until they are 65. Many people won’t make it to retirement, or could die soon after.
“Much like the firefighters’ dispute, they feel they have a right to retire at 60. A lot of the workers are over 45, and are exposed to heavy work that affects their health and capability.”
Union negotiators have already offered to accept £850 million of cuts to pensions. But bosses want to drive through their “work till you drop” scheme.
Workers fear it could be a move towards dropping defined benefit pensions in favour of defined contribution. It’s also cheaper for bosses to wear out a workforce ready to retire than to recruit and train young people.
“The unwillingness to offer decent training is very linked to the issue of pensions,” said Ian. “There are fewer and fewer young people coming into the industry, and rather than train them they want to stop people retiring.”
Bosses can be beaten. The very threat of a strike forced Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover to back off from removing final salary pensions after a Unite strike ballot.
Ian said, “It’s not just Tata, but bosses in other industries and the public sector are determined to push through cost-cutting measures. If we don’t defend our pension scheme all our other terms and conditions will be up for grabs.”
Other major sites to be hit by the strike include Port Talbot and Llanwern in South Wales, Shotton in North Wales, Rotherham in South Yorkshire, Corby in Northamptonshire, Hartlepool and Redcar in Teesside, and York.
As the Tories sharpen their knives to attack workers and their union rights, this is a fight for all socialists to get behind.