by Niall Christie
UNIONS in Scotland are urging ministers to intervene on “fair work grounds” in response to attacks on pensions at both of Dundee’s universities.
Unison, Unite and the University and College Union (UCU) have written to Scottish Universities Minister Richard Lochhead to force a resolution to looming disputes over pension rights at both Dundee and Abertay universities.
Professional and support staff at the University of Dundee are threatened with the closure of their defined-benefit scheme, which would cut their income in retirement by thousands of pounds a year.
Abertay is proposing to stop allowing research, professional and support staff access to a quality, defined benefit pension scheme, a change that the unions say would create a “two-tier workforce.”
All three unions said that the proposals must be withdrawn, with the UCU reiterating the future cost to staff.
UCU Scotland official Mary Senior 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.”
An Abertay University spokesman said that the changes would only affect staff appointed in the future, with existing employees allowed to opt in.
The calls came as unions described Scotland’s education sector as being in a “perilous position.”
The UCU set out its manifesto this week ahead of May’s Holyrood election, calling on the next Scottish government to fully fund higher education, including all teaching costs.
The union also said that casual contracts must be cut and the “excessive levels of principals’ pay” reduced.
A University of Dundee spokesperson said that “urgent actions” were needed to ensure that pension schemes remain affordable, adding that the university was committed to working with the unions.