University staff in pensions battle

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LOW-PAID staff at Sheffield University are fighting to protect their pensions after management introduced a scheme which workers claim will leave them in poverty when they retire.

Unions say the move will halve the previous typical £7,500 annual pension for support staff earning £15,000 a year, but the university insists the changes from the former university pension scheme to a new cash balance option are necessary to keep the scheme financially sustainable.

But unions say it is unfair because staff on grades five and above – including vice-chancellor Prof Keith Burnett, who last year earned a salary of £311,000 – will retain their current pensions.

Members of the university’s Unison branch voted unanimously to fight for the restoration of what they describe as a ‘decent pension for support workers’.

Stuart Anderson, branch secretary, said: “The university is not part of national negotiations and therefore has total control over what pension people will get at the end of their working lives.

“What the university has chosen to do is impose the worst pension in higher education, far worse than the local government scheme that workers doing the same job at Sheffield Hallam University are members of.

“The new scheme could pay members only 40 per cent of what they had been expecting.

“The university was recently named university of the year, but the support staff who helped make that possible now have the worst pension of any workers in higher education.”