University strike ballot

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UP to 2,000 administrative staff at Sheffield University could go on strike over proposed pension changes.

The Unison trade union, which represents cleaners, porters, caterers and clerical staff at the university, has issued an industrial action ballot to its members.

The move comes after lecturers represented by the University and Colleges Union walked out last month in a two-day strike over the same issue.

University bosses say they need to amend the way pensions are paid to ensure provision for staff remains affordable, sustainable and attractive to members in the face of funding cuts and higher tuition fees.

The University Executive Board has recommended the University Council closes the current final salary scheme and replaces it with a cash balance scheme.

But unions say the recommendation, if it is implemented, would halve the pensions for low-paid staff, while senior managers continue to benefit from a superannuation scheme.

Unison regional manager Alan Hughes said Sheffield University was saving money ‘at the expense of its lowest paid staff’.

He said in an attempt to tackle its pension deficit, the university would be switching its lowest paid workers on to a cash benefit scheme which would leave them with a smaller pension on retirement.

He said: “If you’ve been paying into a pension fund all your working life and you’re suddenly told what you were expecting is going to be halved, you’re going to be pretty angry. What we’re hoping to do is bring the university to a standstill.

“We think students will see we have a just cause here.”

Under the new proposals a member of staff earning £15,000 a year, with 40 years’ service, would expect to receive a pension on retirement of approximately £3,750, down from £7,500 currently.