It has set a nervous element in the UK steel industry: Harish Patel
As Britain decides to exit the European Union, all the three trade unions in the region — Unite, GMB and Community — have raised concerns over the fate of its 146,000 (active and inactive) members, part of the British Pension Scheme, under Tata Steel’s UK operations. In a telephonic interview with Aditi Divekar, Unite’s national officer (metals and foundary) Harish Patel talks about the nervous element that has set into the industry post referendum. Edited excerpts.
The exit of Britain will lead to changes in the scheme for the worse from the workers point of view. What is the mood like among trade unions?
Britain’s Prime Minister had promised that he would do his best to save the steel industry in UK but with him resigning, there is significant concern among trade unions. His resignation also implies exit of Business Secretary Sajid Javed, a big problem for us. The mood overall is subdued and a nervous element has set in as to what and how things would be next. There are concerns from job security perspective as well.
What is the next course of action the unions plan?
All the three unions have sent an e-mail to Tata Steel, asking for a meeting with Koushik Chatterjee (Group’s chief financial officer). We are yet to hear from the company but think the management might make some important announcement on Monday or later in the week.
What would the scheme look like after Brexit and by when do you see these changes get effective?
The business is now breaking even and in a better position. There is a proposal, regarding the PPF which looks fine on the table but the concerns are that these seem like a short-term solutions.
What announcement is expected from Tata Steel next week?
We think Tata Steel would announce selling off 30 per cent of its UK business, the speciality steel unit. We never wanted Tata Steel to sell the UK business in parts but the announcement could be about shortlisting of bidders for this section of the business.
Any idea about who the shortlisted bidder could be. Also, thyssenkrup is said to be in talks for Netherlands business of Tata Steel.
For the specialty business, it could be Greybull or Liberty House since it matches their existing portfolio. We are not sure about thyssenkrup but there may be closed door meetings happening with Tata Steel.