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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Steel pensions strike escalates
Caparo steel company logo and welders
Hundreds of steelworkers in Wales and England are to step up their industrial action over pension rights.

Workers at Caparo steelworks in Wrexham, Tredegar and Scunthorpe have been striking for one day a week over the firm's decision in July to close its final salary pension scheme.

The 340 Caparo employees are the first in the UK to take strike action to protect their pension rights.

ISTC union logo
The ISTC balloted members on action

A fourth one-day strike will be held on Wednesday and further industrial action will be carried out later this month after the latest management offer was rejected.

Caparo employees are planning to hand in a protest petition at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, calling on the UK Government to change the law to safeguard workers' pensions rights.

The ISTC union claims its members would be 25% worse off when they retired under the management proposals.

Workers staged their first walk-out in July at the three steel factories owned by Labour peer Lord Paul.

Loyal, hard-working employees have shown they are not prepared to be walked over

Eddie Lynch

The ISTC union, which represents steel and metal workers, claims that 340 workers had taken part in the stoppages.

Caparo employs 2,000 workers in 20 plants and offices in the UK.

In recent weeks, ISTC members at the plants had been operating an over-time ban and working to rule.

Security in retirement

Eddie Lynch, assistant general secretary of the ISTC union, said: "Loyal, hard-working employees have shown they are not prepared to be walked over and have their right to security in retirement taken away."

Earlier in the dispute, Angad Paul, Caparo director, told BBC News Online the company had been "exceptionally co-operative" in negotiations with the ISTC union.

He added Caparo was still looking at all the options - including the possible re-opening of the company final salary scheme.

Pension shortfall

Caparo is the latest in a long line of companies to announce the closure of its employee final salary pension scheme.

They guarantee members a pension income based on number of years of service and salary when the employee leaves the company.

Many schemes have seen their funds shrink as a result of stock market falls.

In such cases, firms face the possibility of having to make up any shortfall between the assets of the final salary scheme and the benefits promised to members.

In many cases, this risk has persuaded companies to close down final salary schemes and switch to money-purchase schemes where the employee bears most of the risk.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sarah Lockett
"A raft of employers... are trying to reduce their pension commitments"
Brendan Barber, Deputy Gen Secretary of the TUC
"We need to see employers accepting their responsibility in this field"

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28 Jun 02 | Business
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