Frank Field MP wants assurances over 130,000 steelworker pensions in Tata Steel's tie-up with ThyssenKrupp

Rebecca Smith
Tata is merging its European steel operations including the Port Talbot plant with ThyssenKrupp
Tata is merging its European steel operations including the Port Talbot plant with ThyssenKrupp (Source: Getty)

The chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee has today demanded assurances regarding the pensions of 130,000 British steelworkers when a new pan-European steel giant is formed.

Labour MP Frank Field has raised concerns that "the livelihoods" of British Steel pensioners "lie in the hands of the new owners - a pan-European super-giant - and not the Pensions Regulator".

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In August, Tata got the go-ahead to offload the British Steel pension scheme and create a new defined benefit fund, paving the way for Tata to merge its European steel operations with those of German firm ThyssenKrupp.

The British Steel scheme will come under the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). Under the new deal, current and retired workers will have the option of transferring to the new scheme or to the PPF, though they could lose more money doing the latter.

But Field has raised concerns as to whether the new venture will stick to the terms set out.

He said: "Even if the vast majority of scheme members opt for the new scheme, the owners could still pull the plug and send them into the PPF. In the event the new scheme does go ahead, the new owners will decide whether to start paying cost-of-living increases for pensions accrued before 1997, the oldest members."

Field plans to write to ThyssenKrupp and Tata to ask what assurances they can give to British Steel pensioners.

He added: "What will the mysterious qualifying criteria be? What commitments will they make to ensure the new scheme starts and stays in a healthy state? How will the interests of pensioners be represented and protected?"

Last month, ThyssenKrupp said it was setting up a joint working group of board members and labour representatives to help implement the merger plans. The tie-up will result in the loss of around 4,000 jobs shared between the two businesses.

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