STEEL WORKERS employed by AvestaPolarit face an attack on their pension fund. The move comes after giant steel company Corus sold its shares in AvestaPolarit to the Finnish firm Outokumpu. The pension scheme dates back to the days of the nationalised British Steel company. It is a final salary pension that is more secure than the stakeholder pensions that are gambled on the stockmarket.
But AvestaPolarit bosses told workers on Monday of last week that the pension was being withdrawn and the current fund would be frozen. Some 1,800 workers will be affected in plants in Sheffield, Oldbury and Panteg, South Wales. They are mainly steel workers in the ISTC union and also fitters in the AEEU-Amicus union.
'I don't care what nationality my boss is. I care about keeping a decent pension scheme,' said one Sheffield steel worker. 'The average age of blokes here is 45 years old. One reason why the pension fund is so high is that steel workers die early. It's frightening that they want to replace the little security we have with a stakeholder pension. People see it is something that affects everybody the same. We heard that steel workers at the Carparo firm were told their final salary scheme is being closed. Then our bosses did the same to us! They told us at workplace meetings and said, 'Stay calm, we'll sort it out.' But I think the last thing we need to do is stay calm or let them sort it out. The Carparo workers are taking action. But there is a lack of confidence among our union reps. I think there is enough feeling to get some action started.'
HUNDREDS OF sacked steel workers from the Corus plant in Ebbw Vale, South Wales, held a march last Sunday. Demonstrators marked the last 500 workers at the tin plate works who were made redundant on Friday of last week.