Unions have expressed concern Tata Steel’s plans to sell its Long Products business and warned of possible industrial action over pensions.
The division employs thousands of people at several sites in the UK – including at the Scunthorpe steelworks, mills in Teesside, Dalzell and Clydebridge in Scotland, an engineering workshop in Workington and a rail consultancy in York.
Tata Steel has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Klesch Group, an industrial company which operates across Europe, that would see it take control of the Long Products business.
Steel unions Community, Unite, the GMB and Ucatt called on the management to hold "meaningful consultations", saying in a statement: "Union representatives from all Tata Steel sites were clear that they are not convinced that selling Long Products is the best way forward in the interests of the members they represent.
"The unions have engaged the Syndex consultancy as expert advisers to provide in-depth economic and industrial research on the alternatives and to test the rationale for the sale. We want Tata Steel to co-operate fully with that process.
"We understand that this process could take weeks or months and that there will be continuing uncertainty for our members, which is why we were so disappointed that Tata Steel failed to consult the unions prior to making their announcement last week.
"During the meeting, union representatives also raised concerns about the implications for their pensions, should a sale proceed. Consequently, the unions have reaffirmed their position, first established in 2009, to ballot their members for industrial action, should Tata Steel make any moves against the British Steel Pension Scheme."
In Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday MP for the steel community of Motherwell and Wishaw Frank Roy questioned the credentials of Klesch as a buyer, to which David Cameron responded that he is taking a "personal interest" in ensuring jobs are not lost.
Speaking in a video address yesterday general secretary of Community Roy Rickhuss said: "The Prime Minister's comments today will give no definitive reassurance to the thousands of our members whose futures are under threat.
"Community remains unconvinced of the need to sell off the Long Products business and we'll be doing everything we can to ensure our members are protected. We're pleased to say Cyrus Mistry, the chair of Tata Steel, has now agreed to meet us and we look forward to having that discussion with him.
"The meeting will be an opportunity to hear questions and concerns directly from union representatives from all areas of Tata Steel. We felt it was important that reps from other parts of the business that are not earmarked for sale also participated in the meeting because we believe that attempting to sell Long Products has wider implications across the company.
“The poor way Tata Steel handled this major strategic decision, with no consultation with trade unions, is a matter of concern for all our members whether they work in Scunthorpe or Port Talbot."
The meeting is expected to take place in November.