The principal of Dundee University has faced calls from striking staff to reconsider proposed changes to their pensions.
Iain Gillespie, who is also the vice chancellor of the uni, visited the picket line on Monday to discuss the issue with workers.
They have been on strike since Wednesday as they try to prevent the closure of the university’s superannuation scheme, a defined benefits scheme.
Unison claims the replacement scheme will leave many staff in pension poverty, with some potentially losing up to 40% of their pensions in retirement.
Phil Welsh, secretary of Dundee University‘s Unison branch, spoke with Mr Gillespie and asked him to change the plans.
He told The Courier afterwards: “I think he picked up on the sentiment among the workers, they’ve definitely picked up on the level of anger.
“But that was the first time he’s spoken to the workers down here. Considering the pension they’re on, it’s really not fair.
“The university secretary was in attendance today, but he came down and heard the same thing last Wednesday, so he had the opportunity to go back up and speak to them then.
“No one wants to be on strike, there are people here who have never been on strike before. But that just shows how angry the staff are.
“I think the university’s funds have been completely mismanaged. It shouldn’t be the case that the hard-working staff, who make the university what it is, are suffering the consequences.”
Jasmine Bennett, a 20-year-old English and philosophy student, was one of the students who addressed Mr Gillespie.
Jasmine said: “There’s a lot of students who have turned up today in support of the strikes.
“We really want to see the best outcome for the workers, because what the university is doing isn’t right.
“People come from all over the UK to study at this university and it doesn’t look good for their reputation if this is how they treat their staff.
“[Iain Gillespie] said that he was listening to the people on the picket line today, but what does that actually mean?”
Uni to continue consultation on pensions scheme
Mr Gillespie said: “The pension scheme has a significant deficit according to the latest valuation, at around £55 million, which is why we are proposing changes.
“We have already committed to putting an extra £40m into the scheme over the next 10 years to help address the deficit.
“I hear the concerns of staff and the unions over the proposed changes.
“We remain in a consultation period on the proposals for the pension scheme, which was extended at the unions’ request, and is still scheduled to run to November 14.
“I am determined that we get back to serious discussion with the campus unions on proposals for the scheme and I have called again for them to return to negotiation.
“I sincerely hope a resolution can be agreed to both offer strong pension benefits to our staff and remove the risk of any disruption to students.”
The strike action began just days after students had returned to the university – many for the first time since before the pandemic.