Union chiefs worried Tata Steel is trying to rush a deal

Tata Steel Hartlepool

Tata Steel Hartlepool

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The steelworkers' trade union has today expressed concerns that Tata Steel is trying to rush a deal through.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary for Community, the union which represents many of the workers, said he is concerned about the amount of time the company is allowing to sell its remaining UK assets.

He said: “We have serious concerns that Tata Steel will not keep its commitment to be a responsible seller and will impose an arbitrary deadline that is too soon for credible investors to develop a viable bid.

“Since Tata put the business up for sale we have had various discussions with a range of stakeholders who are keen to understand the perspective of the workforce. A number of the people we’re talking to have expressed concerns about the tight timescales that Tata wants to impose.

“These are national industrial assets that are up for sale so this isn’t something that can happen overnight. Tata allowed time for the sale of its Long Products business to a credible investor, it should provide the same opportunity to bidders for the rest of its UK business.

“Nobody wants this process to drag on, not least because of the uncertainty for everyone involved with the company, especially the workforce. But, nor should this process be rushed when there are so many things at stake, including Tata’s reputation as a responsible company.”

An executive who is leading a bid to buy out Tata Steel today said believes closing the pension scheme for Tata Steel workers is in the “best interest” of its 130,000 members.

Stuart Wilkie said Excalibur Steel could not afford to take on the liabilities and the best option was to start again.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We think it is important that pension is safeguarded for the future.

"An organisation like ourselves could not raise the funds just now to support the pension scheme going forward.

"So we believe it is in the best interest of the pensioners that that scheme is effectively closed and we start with a new scheme."

Commenting on this, Mr Rickhuss, said: “As far as we are concerned this is still speculation about the implications for the pension scheme and is just the view of one potential buyer.

“Potential buyers are far from the only stakeholders and Tata Steel is still ultimately responsible for the British Steel Pension Scheme.

“There is a long way to go in the sales process and concrete proposals need to be brought forward.

“We are keeping a close eye on the situation as regards the pension scheme and are in dialogue with the BSPS, Tata and the government. We are determined to uphold the best interests of our members throughout this process.”

Tata Steel has a site in Brenda Road, in Hartlepool, employing 500 people.