Workers at the Caparo Steel Group have shown that strikes are the best way to defend pensions. They have forced concessions from their employer after five 24-hour strikes at weekly intervals. The 340 workers at plants in Scunthorpe, Wrexham and Tredegar had threatened to increase their action to two 24-hour strikes per week.
Caparo has now reinstated the final salary scheme which it had taken away from workers at the plant in the summer. Final salary schemes guarantee that your pension will be a percentage of your wages when you finish working. The company wanted to replace this with an inferior scheme that gambled pensions on the stockmarket.
The Caparo workers' ISTC union said the new final salary scheme was 'worth just as much' as the one that had been closed to existing members in June. It is good to see the company back down. The Financial Times comments that the result will 'boost the morale of the trade union movement at the start of what promises to be a protracted ideological war over the issue'.
But there is a problem with the new deal. This battle was about taking the final salary pension away from people presently working for Caparo. That has been won. But the Caparo scheme remains closed to new workers because of an earlier decision by the company.