University staff strikes to go ahead over threat to pension

Security, administration, library, catering, and finance department workers plan industrial action this month.

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Staff at the University of Dundee will go on strike against controversial changes to their pension scheme.

Security, administration, library, catering, and finance department workers voted to reject the proposals to end the current pension scheme and replace it with a more affordable option.

The University of Dundee Superannuation Scheme has a current deficit of around £55m and, like the UK-wide Universities Superannuation Scheme, has been undergoing a consultation period to find a way of tackling the funding shortfall.

Dundee University has proposed replacing the current Defined Benefit scheme with a Defined Contribution scheme which, Unison said, would offer no guaranteed benefits in retirement.

Branch secretary Phil Welsh said: “The existing proposals will lead to staff retiring into pension poverty, with the university’s own figures suggesting a 40% cut in retirement incomes for scheme members.

“We cannot allow this to happen, destroying the retirement hopes of hundreds of workers while trashing the reputation of this great university as an employer of choice in the city.”

Strike action is set to begin on Wednesday, September 29.

The university said strike action would impact on students just as they are being welcomed back.

A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the unions have moved to strike action, and particularly at this time.

“We will do all we can to mitigate the impact on students, and meanwhile call on the unions to return to the consultation process.”

The consultation process for changes to the scheme was extended following pressure from unions and is set to run until November 14.

UNISON regional organiser Mo Dickson said: “[The union] has made a number of proposals which would save the university money and reduce its risks but these have been rejected at every turn.

“Instead it continues to insist that its lowest paid workers take on all future pension risks and pay for a situation not of their making.”

The university said counter-proposals from unions were unaffordable and too high risk for the institution.

A spokesperson said: “The university’s initial proposal in March was improved after careful consideration of feedback received from our employees and revised proposals were offered at the end of July, including increased employer contributions, a delayed implementation date of any changes, and improved death-in-service benefits.

“The proposals would also ensure those on the lowest wages receive greater benefits, make the scheme more accessible to those who cannot afford it in its current guise, and offer a greater aspect of intergenerational fairness.

“It is also important to note that under the proposals benefits already accrued will not be affected.”

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