London: Thousands of Tata Steel workers in the UK today voted overwhelmingly in favour of a rescue plan put forward by the Indian steel giant that will secure their jobs.
Nearly 10,000 were voting in a ballot over the past few weeks on whether they would accept moving from a final salary pension to a less generous scheme in return for job safety and Tata's promise of nearly 1-billion-pound worth of investment over the next 10 years.
Members of workers' unions at sites in Wales, Scotland, South Yorkshire and Teesside all supported the new proposals.
Voting figures from Community union members showed 72 per cent in favour and 28 per cent against the changes; there was 76 per cent to 24 per cent split among Unite members; and a 74 per cent to 26 per cent divide at the GMB union.
"This result provides a mandate from our members to move forward in our discussions with Tata and find a sustainable solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme," said Roy Rickhuss, the general secretary of Community union.
Tony Brady, Unite's national officer, said Tata must now honour its commitments on investment.
"Nothing less would be a betrayal and add to the deep mistrust that steelworkers now have for the company," he said.
Tata Steel, which owns the UK's largest steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales among other units, has been working on finding a solution to the crisis in the steel industry since it announced a major restructuring in March 2016.
A UK government spokesperson said: "This positive vote is an important step forward for the future of Port Talbot and Tata Steel in the UK and it is now vital that all parties work together to deliver on the agreed proposals.
"Now that the unions have voted on a new agreement, the pension scheme would be uncoupled from Tata's UK steel business, which currently makes large payments into it to make up funding shortfalls."
The scheme is then expected to become self-sufficient.
The pension fund and its deficit were the reason that attempts by Tata to sell its UK steel business failed last year.
It has since been pursuing a merger with ThyssenKrupp.
Tata Steel is yet to comment on the latest developments.
Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director Tata Steel and Executive Director for Tata Steel's European business, had said last month: "The proposed changes to future pension provision and other employment terms are necessary to de-risk the company and help achieve long-term sustainability.
"We are also working separately on a necessary structural solution for the British Steel Pension Scheme fund," he said.