University staff set to strike over pensions

Pictured are members of Unison & Unite Unions outside Sheffield University's Firth Court holding a rally about proposed penison changes
Pictured are members of Unison & Unite Unions outside Sheffield University's Firth Court holding a rally about proposed penison changes
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THOUSANDS of staff at Sheffield University could be set to strike over the introduction of a new pension scheme which means lower paid workers will lose out on thousands of pounds.

A recommendation to close the current pension scheme to staff on grades one to five put before the University Council on Wednesday has been approved.

The lowest-paid staff – porters, cleaners and office workers – will now be offered the chance to join a new Cash Balance Scheme which the unions say will cost them thousands of pounds each year.

But higher-paid workers in grades six and above, including university Vice Chancellor Keith Burnett who earns £294,000 per year, will continue to benefit from membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme and its final salary pension provision.

A university spokesman said: “The rising risk and cost of the university’s local pension provision meant that the university’s pension scheme was no longer sustainable and affordable.

“Wednesday’s outcome is a measured, balanced decision for the long term which takes into account the realities of rising pension costs and risks being faced in all sectors.”

But Unite’s Martin Bentley said: “The change means a member of support staff earning £15,000 per year under the cash balance proposals could expect to receive a pension in retirement after 40 years service of approximately £3,750 – compared to £7,500 under the current scheme.”

Sue Cresswell, secretary for the University of Sheffield branch of Unison, said: “It is plainly wrong to punish the lower paid workers this way while allowing those on higher salaries to retain a final salary pension.”