ABERAVON'S new MP has spoken up for steelworkers in Port Talbot after union members overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action over pension changes.
Stephen Kinnock, who became MP for Aberavon in May, said he supported Tata Steel workers in Port Talbot after they voted by a large majority on Friday, in favour of industrial action over the company's proposed changes to pensions and its refusal to negotiate over the Early Retirement Clause.
The company, which employs thousands at its sites in Port Talbot and Llanelli, announced its intention to close the British Steel Pension Scheme to future accrual in March.
The proposed changes could see workers retiring at 65 instead of 60.
On Friday, 88 per cent of those balloted voted in favour of action nationally, with the figure even higher in Port Talbot at 95 per cent.
Mr Kinnock said: "It is a great shame that things have progressed to this level. The workforce in Port Talbot have shown every willingness to compromise with Tata, but their efforts have been unsuccessful and it appears now that action is inevitable.
"The fact that 88 per cent nationally and 95 per cent in Port Talbot have voted in favour of industrial action sends a very clear message to Tata Steel: the overwhelming majority of their workforce has now stated emphatically that the changes to the Pension Scheme that are being proposed are simply unacceptable. The trade unions now have a very strong mandate for further dialogue with management, and I hope that Tata Steel will now understand that they must return to the negotiating table in good faith."
The Aberavon MP added: "Allowing these workers to retire in peace and safety at 60 is not only reasonable; it's necessary if Tata are to avoid injuries and potential deaths among the workforce. I will open myself up to accusations of ageism here and say that there is an age, which is too old to safely work at a steel plant." Mr Kinnock said he urged the Government to support the striking steelworkers to protect the future of the steel industry.