Unite “angered” by University of Dundee plans to change pensions scheme

Members of Unite Scotland have expressed “anger” in response to the University of Dundee confirming that it will forge ahead with changes to the University of Dundee Superannuation Scheme (UODSS).

The comments were made after University Court, the governing body of the university, agreed on revised pension arrangements for staff on grades 1-6 at its latest meeting, despite ongoing strike action from Unite Scotland members.

The changes, which will come into effect from 1 January 2023, include the introduction of a defined contribution (DC) scheme to all new members of staff from 1 January 2023, which will allow existing UoDSS members to exit and join the DC scheme if they wish.

In addition to this, the existing UODSS scheme has been changed to align the scheme retirement age with the UK state pension age, while the accrual rate has been reduced from 1/80th to 1/100th, and the employee contribution rate has been increased from 1 per cent to 8.75 per cent.

Under the changes, the UODSS will also be closed to new members of the eligible staff group from 1 January 2023.

Unite members began their second strike over the planned changes on 25 August, after 83 per cent of members backed plans for industrial action earlier this month.

The union warned that the changes could see the lowest paid workers lose up to 50 per cent of their pension, potentially “plunging them into pension poverty”, with estimates that pensions would fall £5,700 from £20,100 to £14,400.

The dispute initially stemmed from the university’s March 2021 proposal to close the defined benefit (DB) pension scheme to grades 1-6 and replace it with a DC scheme.

Following 11 days of strike by Unite members in October 2021, the university withdrew their proposals for a DC scheme, instead confirming that it will maintain a "modified DB scheme" for existing members in response to the member and union feedback.

However, Unite Scotland has raised concerns that the "massive cuts" could still push members into pension poverty "at a time when the cost of living and energy costs are soaring".

Unite regional officer, Susan Robertson, commented: “The imposition of the pension changes will mean that some university workers are set to lose up to £5,700 a year in retirement.

"Our members will have to work longer, pay in more and receive less in retirement income.

“This is in stark contrast to higher pay grades who will have their pensions protected. Unite only heard that these changes had been imposed through an email to staff. The university didn’t even afford us the courtesy of directly informing us which is shameful.

“I am proud of our members taking a stand for a second time and Unite will continue to support our members taking strike action throughout the coming weeks.”

Commenting in response, a spokesperson for the university stated: “The University Court last week decided on revised pension arrangements for staff on grades 1 to 6 to offer accessible, flexible, and sustainable pensions for all.

“The university’s original position was to close the existing DB scheme and move to a DC scheme for all in recognition of the fact that there is a significant deficit, and high level of liabilities, in the scheme that urgently needed to be addressed.

“After listening to staff and the campus unions, we revised the proposals and will now maintain a modified DB scheme open for existing members.

"We have also committed significant extra funding to the UODSS pension scheme, of £40 million over the next ten years."

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