Protest at ‘two tier’ pension bid

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ANGRY workers at Sheffield University will today gather to urge bosses to think again about proposed pension changes.

Members of Unison, GMB, UCU and Unite are angry that proposed changes in the way pensions are paid will create a two tier structure with the lowest-paid workers - including porters, cleaners and clerical staff - losing out to the tune of thousands of pounds each year.

Both unions say that, in the wake of the recent funding cuts to Higher Education and in advance of the announcement of how much tuition fees the University will be levying, the proposed changes represent “a devastating attack on support staff pensions.” is under way.

Bosses blame rising costs and falling numbers of employees choosing to opt into the scheme for the proposed changes.

The University Executive Board is recommending to the University Council meeting today that it closes the current final salary scheme to future accrual and replaces it with a cash balance scheme.

The result of this, say the unions, will be to approximately halve the pensions in retirement for the lowest paid staff on grades one to five.

Such a change, they say, will create a two-tier workforce as staff in grade six and above, including the Vice-Chancellor and senior management, will continue to benefit from membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme and its final salary pension provision.

Unite’s Martin Bentley said: “Following this year’s pay rise of 0.4 per cent the last thing the lowest paid at this institution need is an unfair and inequitable onslaught on their deferred pay.”

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.

The unions say many support staff earn far less than £15,000.

Sue Cresswell, secretary for the University of Sheffield branch of Unison, said: “Feelings are running high regarding the changes. We understand they have to look at other schemes. Everyone is doing it.

“But I don’t know anyone who supports the changes. People would have to pay twice as much to get the same amount.”