Unison criticises universities for changes to workers’ pensions

More than 4,500 support staff at two major universities are in line to be adversely affected by changes to their pension schemes, according to Unison.

At the University of Manchester, 4,000 current staff members face having their pensions reduced by 20 per cent as their scheme is switched from a final salary defined benefit scheme to a Care plan.

Appointments after the proposed changes take effect will be auto-enrolled into a defined contribution scheme, but more than 400 workers at the University of Manchester have already signed a petition in protest to the proposed alterations.

Despite this, the University of Manchester insists it wants to provide the “best possible pension benefits” for its workers.

“Providing valuable retirement benefits for our staff is extremely important to us. The University wants its staff to have the best possible pension benefits at retirement. However, these need to be affordable for members and the University, both now and in the future. Consultation on the proposals is still ongoing,” a spokesperson said.

At Staffordshire University, 576 staff members of staff have had their pension plans changed from a Local Government Pension Scheme to a DC scheme managed by the university.
The proposed changes by the Universities of Manchester and Staffordshire impact mainly low-paid staff, such as cleaners, catering staff and administrators.

Unison, assistant general secretary, Christina McAnea, chastised the decisions: “This is a disgraceful move by both universities, undermining the pensions of the lowest paid. We must not let this become the norm.”

An official press statement from Staffordshire University said: “The new defined contribution scheme is a good quality pension scheme, with the University contributing 7 per cent as the basic entry level pension. In addition, the University will contribute up to a further 3 per cent dependent on how much the individual wishes to save for their own pension. The quality of this pension offer is recognised by the Pension Quality Plus mark, a national standard of excellence in pension provision.”

However, these changes are not viewed in such a positive light by support staff at Staffordshire University and they, alongside Unison, have organised strike action to take place on 16 August.

“These new pension schemes will leave staff struggling to plan for retirement and significantly worse off in old age,” McAnea concluded.

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