Belfast Telegraph

Union leaders voice concerns over Tata Steel sale timescale

Union leaders have expressed concerns about the amount of time Tata Steel is allowing to sell its UK assets.

Community said it had "serious concerns " about commitments given by the Indian conglomerate about being a responsible seller.

General secretary Roy Rickhuss said he feared an "arbitrary deadline" will be imposed that is too soon for credible investors to develop a viable bid.

Two potential bidders have tabled a formal interest - Liberty House and a management buyout team under the name Excalibur.

Mr Rickhuss said: "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."

Closing the pension scheme for Tata Steel workers is in the "best interest" of its 130,000 members, the executive leading the management buyout bid has insisted.

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

The former hub director of Tata Steel's Strip Products denied he was trying to leave taxpayers to pick up the costs, claiming the social consequences of widespread job losses outweighed any Government support.

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."

Mr Rickhuss responded: "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."