Pensions decision ‘bad’ for university

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TRADE unionists claim bosses who introduced a new pension scheme for low paid workers at Sheffield U niversity are ruining its reputation.

The claims comes after Sheffield was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards.

Unions say the scheme will cost 2,000 porters, cleaners and office staff – who earn £14,000 a year – thousands of pounds in retirement.

High earners will continue to benefit from membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme and its final salary pension provision.

University bosses insist they needed to amend the way pensions are paid to ensure provision for staff remains affordable, sustainable and attractive to members amid cuts and higher tuition fees.

The changes came after the University Executive Board recommended the University Council closed the final salary scheme and replace it with a cash balance scheme.

But unions say the university’s reputation is being harmed by the action and are now set to launch a legal challenge.

Stuart Anderson, joint branch secretary of the University of Sheffield branch of Unison, said: “It is ironic that the university has just been named University of the Year for ‘a strategy based on its values and rooted in its founding principles’ and the institution’s ‘determination and grit’ in focusing on its local community.

“Gratuitously increasing inequality and ramping up pensioner poverty hardly sits well with these fine words.

“The cash balance scheme provides for a ‘pot’ of money to be paid to the member on retirement which they will then have to buy pension provision with.

“It is sad that the top management of the university have seen fit to do this to its lowest paid workers.

“There is a strong community spirit at the university and staff of all grades are hurt and angry that the university bigwigs have attacked this community by effectively picking out the lower paid and treating them as second class citizens.”

Sheffield University graduate Sam Collins is among students and former students supporting the unions.

He said: “It’s wrong for management to pick on those at the bottom whilst looking after themselves.

“I am proud to have gone to Sheffield but actions such as this will damage university’s reputation.”

Retired professor Geoffrey Turner said: “This is all about cutting costs at the expense of the lower paid, for the benefit of the rich. Increased contributions and worsening pensions are simply a pay cut by another name.”