Tata and unions take steelworkers pensions talks to Labour conference

Mark Sands
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Tata has been in talks over a potential joint venture with Thyssenkrupp since July (Source: Getty)

Talks over a rescue plan for British steelworkers are set to move to Merseyside this week as both Tata and unions seek an end to a deadlock over pensions.

Both Tata and union leaders are attending the Labour party conference in Liverpool, with talks continuing as the Indian steel giant seeks to make sure its UK steelworks are included in a potential joint-venture with Germany's Thyssenkrupp.

Sites including the Port Talbot plant are officially excluded from any joint venture until Tata finds a solution to the huge deficits on the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Last week City A.M. revealed that a dramatic new option had emerged to resolve the dispute.

The latest plans would see the creation of a “mirror scheme” linked to the consumer price index (CPI), with steelworkers then given the choice of transferring or entering into the Pensions Protection Fund.

Read More: Tata pensions "quick fix" a risky precedent says former minister

The plan emerged after the government backed away from a suite of reforms that would have allowed the existing scheme to be linked to CPI, instead of the faster rising Retail Price Index.

That would have required repealing parts of the 1995 Pensions Act, and was strongly favoured by both the unions and former business secretary Sajid Javid.

However, it was nixed by his replacement, Greg Clark, leaving both Tata and the unions scrambling for a new solution. A government consultation on potential resolutions to the British Steel scheme closed on 23 June.

A Tata spokesman said the firm "continues to responsibly develop options to identify the best prospects for the future sustainability of its UK operations and the best outcome for members of the British Steel Pension Scheme."