Stephen Kinnock MP has spoken out in support of Tata Steelworkers in Port Talbot who voted by a large majority yesterday in favour of industrial action over Tata’s refusal to negotiate over the Early Retirement Clause. 88% of those balloted voted in favour of action nationally, with the figure even higher in Port Talbot at 95%. The turnout was similarly large, with 76% voting nationally and 84% in Port Talbot.

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% nationally and 95% 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 proposals to raise the pensionable age from 60 to 65 disregards the nature of the hazardous and back breaking work done by steelworkers. They work long hours performing hard physical labour, clothed in protective gear to protect them from extreme heat and dangerous chemicals, often in precarious settings. They look forward to the comforts of retirement at 60, and they have most certainly earned them.”

“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.”

“I urge the Government to support the striking steelworkers to protect the future of the steel industry nationally. Steel is a foundation industry and the Works in Port Talbot provide the best quality materials to a range of other key industries including rail, ship building and construction. These industries depend on Port Talbot produced steel, so it is vital that Tata live up to and understand their responsibility to ensure that their workforce are happy, safe, confident and feel valued.”

“As I member of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Steel, I have proposed a Westminster Hall debate, open to the public, to emphasise to the Government the vital importance of our nation’s steel industry and of fairness to our steelworkers. I am very pleased to say that my proposal has the unanimous support of the All Party Group.”

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