UNISON members set to join UCU pensions’ strike

UNISON members working at UK universities are being urged to vote “Yes” in a forthcoming strike ballot over pensions.

UCU members are already taking action over the issue, which sees employes want to change from a ‘defined benefit’ scheme to a ‘defined contribution’ scheme, meaning members’ pensions would depend not on how long they’d worked and paid into the scheme, but what sort of package they could buy with their individual fund when they retired.

UNISON members earlier rejected the scheme by 91% in an internal consultation and now the union’s higher education service group executive is unanimously calling on them to take strike action when an industrial action ballot begins in April.

UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “It seems unthinkable that Universities UK is putting forward a proposal to make some of the lowest-paid take on more risk for less money in retirement.”

She pointed out that the proposed changes will affect everyone currently in the scheme, including professional support staff such as administrators and librarians, as well as a number of cleaners, security staff and porters.

She said: “The significant turnout in UNISON’s consultation shows the strength of feeling. UNISON members are prepared to defend the USS scheme and take strike action alongside UCU colleagues. UNISON believes the current valuation used to value the USS pension scheme deficit is flawed and that any proposals for changes to the USS scheme should be based on an agreed process and a jointly respected actuarial assessment.

“Attacks on pensions for support staff go beyond the current USS dispute. The employers have offered years of below-inflation pay cuts, arguing that pensions are part of the reward package for staff. Now they are offering cuts to pay and pensions, with no fig leaf to hide behind.”

Beyond the Universities Superannuation Scheme, Ms Rowe-Merriman pointed out that “an increasing number of universities with separate local pension schemes for support staff are also seeking to undermine their schemes and others are exploring ways to prevent staff from getting access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

“This is not the way to reward staff for their hard work, by robbing them of their hard-earned pension.”

“Universities in the UK are on a race to the bottom of pension provision for their staff. UNISON members are saying enough is enough – the mood is changing.” “Staff are making it clear that decent pensions are worth taking action to defend.”

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