News reports, as of May 29, indicate that the 4 workers unions at Tata Steel UK-- Community, GMB, UCATT and Unite -- covering nearly 17,000 workers, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike, threatening the biggest strike action in the British steel industry in more than 30 years.
The unions are protesting against plans of the Tata management to replace the British Steel Pension Scheme with another one that, according to the workers, will require them to retire at 65 instead of 60. This is likely to deprive the workers of substantial financial benefits and increase the financial burden on the workers.
In 2007, Tata Steel purchased a 100 per cent stake in the Corus Group formerly known as British Steel), cumulatively valued at $12.04 billion. The deal was the largest Indian takeover of a foreign company and made Tata Steel the world's fifth-largest steel group. At that time the bourgeoisie and their media had made much noise about how Ratan Tata was the "man with the magic touch" and that this was a sign of how India was advancing, because Indian capitalists had become so big as to buy up British companies, "reversing the trend of colonisation", etc.
The steel industry is in a deep crisis, in Europe and worldwide.
Tata Steel has declared a loss of Rs 3,926 crore on consolidated basis in the last financial year. The value of its UK business is also reported to have gone down considerably. According to the company's results of last year, the Indian business was three times more profitable than the European ones, operationally.The pound sterling has strengthened by 15-20 per cent against the Euro, making British steel even more expensive, company sources have pointed out. An open letter addressed to the workers by the chief executive of Tata Steel's European operations says that "our pension scheme's assets have not been growing fast enough to keep up with increases in the expected cost of providing benefits. The result has been a huge shortfall of up to £2 billion which is clearly not sustainable."
As always under capitalism, when the rates of profits of the capitalists fall, the burden is pushed on to the backs of the workers.
The working class of India has no reason to celebrate if Indian capitalists are today counted among the big monopoly capitalists of the world. Having exploited the labour of our workers to the bone and looted our rich natural resources to the maximum, with the full assistance of the Indian state, the Indian capitalists have grown so big that they are now doing the same with the working class of other countries.
It must never be forgotten that the interests of the capitalists and those of the working class are diametrically opposite. The capitalist class tries to maximise its profits at all costs, including by greatly intensifying the exploitation of the workers and denying them their rights, while the working class fights to resist the increasing exploitation and in defence of its rights. The working class has to overthrow the capitalist system and take over the means of production as well as state power in its hands, in alliance with other oppressed and exploited sections of the society, to put an end to all forms of exploitation.
The Indian working stands in full support of the struggle of the workers of Tata Steel UK against the attempts of the company to deprive them of their hard-earned pension benefits.