Trade unions fear staff like cleaners will miss out on thousands of pounds a year when they retire
Last updated 1 hour ago
New pension proposals for staff at Dundee University are being described as ‘draconian’ by trade unions.
It’s feared the likes of cleaners could be set to lose thousands of pounds a year when they retire if the defined benefit scheme is closed.
It would be replaced with a defined contribution arrangement where future benefits fluctuate on the basis of investment earnings.
Similar plans at Abertay University are also coming under fire, which would remove access to new employees.
Unison, Unite the Union and UCU Scotland have jointly written to Richard Lochhead, the Universities Minister, urging intervention on Fair Work grounds.
Unison Scotland’s higher education lead officer, Lorcan Mullen said: “The people that have actually been exposed to the most danger throughout the pandemic, keeping student services running, even when there’ve been major outbreaks around university accommodation, those are the people who are faced with the loss of thousands of pounds a year.
“Members were shocked at the severity of the proposals at the University of Dundee and that’s why we’re already making some preparations for industrial action ballot, that merits that type of response.
“We’re hopeful the university will take these proposals off the table. No other university in Scotland, or in the UK that we’re aware of is doing something so draconian.”
Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: “Pensions are deferred pay, and we are deeply alarmed that both employers are trying to attack staff pensions in this way.
“Dundee is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with lower life expectancy levels. Now the university employers are attempting to reduce pensions benefits so staff will be worse off in retirement.”
Alison MacLean, Unite regional officer, said: “Many support staff impacted by these proposals have worked tirelessly to provide essential services throughout an extremely challenging period.
“The operation of the higher education sector has been turned on its head during the ongoing pandemic but the workers at these two universities have risen to the challenge to keep the operation running.
“Therefore, to be informed that their pension rights are now under attack is shameful. The reality of these proposals will be the loss of thousands of pounds per year for workers when they retire.
“The sector is already trapped in a low pay and precarious work situation. Unite is calling on both universities to reconsider their plans or we will be moving forward to resist these unjust proposals.”
A consultation of staff at Dundee University is ongoing.
A Dundee University spokesperson said: “The University is proposing to make changes to the current UODSS (University of Dundee Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme) pension arrangements and we have started a formal consultation process with staff who are in the scheme.
“The consultation period runs until May 14, and nothing will be finalised until after the consultation period ends. All representations from current and eligible members of UODSS and the campus trade unions will be considered before any decisions are made.
“If this proposal goes ahead, from 1 August 2021 a new Defined Contribution arrangement will be put in place and current members of UODSS and those staff eligible to join the scheme will be offered this new arrangement.
“The benefits members have already built up within UODSS are protected and are not affected by the proposed changes.”
Abertay University says current staff will be able to make their own decision on moving to the new scheme.
A spokesperson for Abertay University said: “These proposed changes relate to participation in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) only and would affect only staff appointed in the future.
“It is essential that the University’s exposure to future pension costs is prudently managed to ensure the long term sustainability of the institution in these challenging times.
“If the proposals go ahead, the new scheme will be among the very best defined-contribution schemes available and the University’s contributions to this would continue at the same level as currently paid into the LGPS.
“Because the proposed new scheme has a non-contributory element, it would provide a pension to those Abertay staff who may not feel they can afford to contribute to the current pension scheme.
“Existing staff members will be able to choose to voluntarily join the proposed new scheme if they wish to.”
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