Fears raised for the pensions of steel workers

The SSI plant at Redcar
The SSI plant at Redcar
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A union is calling for an urgent investigation into whether Thai firm SSI has been paying in to the pensions of workers at a steel plant before it went in to liquidation.

Around 1,700 jobs are set to be lost at the site in Redcar on Teesside, where steelmaking is being mothballed. There are reports that the company has not been paying in to workers’ pension funds.

Unite national officer Harish Patel said: “Unite will use all available avenues to ensure their members are not short changed in what looks like a breach of trust and confidence bordering on a criminal act.

“We need an urgent investigation and call on the Government to stop standing on the sidelines.

“One would have thought that Ministers and officials would have run the rule over the books when making their decision not to intervene to save the plant. The Business Secretary now needs to step in and ensure workers aren’t left high dry and robbed of their futures.”

An Insolvency Service spokesman said: “The Redundancy Payment Service, a function of the Insolvency Service, can pay both employee pension contributions and employer contributions, within specified legal limits.

“Claims are lodged by pension trustees, employees do not need to apply themselves.

“The cost of these payments is met from the National Insurance Fund and becomes a debt in the insolvency.”

The news came last night after it was revealed hundreds of steel workers were sent home and told they would be made redundant half way through a shift after being wrongly told they had kept jobs.

MPs have hit out at the Insolvency Service after the mistake, which saw 240 people sent home in the middle of their shifts at the SSI Steelworks in Redcar.

Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley said it was ‘beyond cruel’ belief that staff at the former SSI plant had mistakenly been kept on.

The official receiver had said 650 people would be kept on to keep the coke ovens working as it would cause irreparable damage if they were allowed to go cold.

Ms Turley and Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said they understood that in reality 890 people were kept on but the extra 240 workers were sent home in the middle of their shift and told they would be made redundant.

Thai-owned SSI announced that the plant would be mothballed with 1,700 job losses in September. The Government says a steel summit will be held next Friday to discuss the future of the industry.

Letter: Page 16.