Workers from Dundee University have taken part in a second round of strike action after “difficult” negotiations over an ongoing pensions dispute.
Members of Unison and unite were at the university gates on Monday with further action planned for Tuesday.
“Selective” action will continue in libraries, security services and the mail room for the next two weeks, as well as in finance for the next week.
It follows a series of strikes taken over the last month and a protest at City Square against pension scheme changes.
What do the workers want?
Unison say it wants the following actions before it suspends the strikes:
- Withdrawal of a defined pension contribution proposal
- Detailed joint work on defined benefit alternatives in an effort to address the dispute and avoid future strike action
- A UEG and court decision at the end of joint work on a defined benefit alternative
So far, attempts to broker a deal between the union and the university have been unsuccessful.
Why is the strike still going on?
Mo Dickson, regional officer for Unison in Tayside, blames a lack of communication and transparency from the university.
She said: “I think that, from the very beginning, the university have had a clear strategy and that was to move to a pension scheme that created the smallest amount of financial risk for them as possible.
“I also think there was an element of belief on their part that if they offered something, our members would just accept it and they wouldn’t put up a fight and say no.
“But when our members got the proposal and started to look at how it would actually affect them in reality, and realised that they’d be losing up to 40% of their pension when they retired, our members realised they had to fight for this.
“I think the university have really underestimated the strength of feeling, despite the principal being on the picket line three weeks ago and listening to the workers first-hand.”
The university has proposed changes to the current pension scheme for workers in grades 1-6.
The main change involves moving from a defined benefits scheme to a defined contribution scheme.
In the most recent ballot, 96.4% of members said they did not want a defined contribution scheme.
Unions claim the university’s proposed defined contributions scheme could leave workers up to 40% worse off in retirement.
Lorca Mullen, Unison’s regional organiser for higher education, said: “The university have asked us to bring forward improvements to the defined contributions scheme, but they have refused to tell us their cost and risk parameters.”
Susan Robertson, regional officer for Unite, said: “It’s been difficult. It took two weeks for a negotiation to happen after the principal appeared at the picket line, despite them saying they wanted to speak to us.
“That was the first time the principal appeared at any negotiation meeting.”
Unison has confirmed that 28 of 30 security workers at the university have now joined the strike, sparking concerns over safety.
A Dundee University spokesperson said: “We are confident that the security arrangements we have in place comply with our statutory duty to provide a safe working environment for the university community during the period of industrial action.
“We have also consulted with the police and fire brigade to ensure our plans are appropriate.”
In response to the latest strike action, the spokesperson added: “The university principal last week offered to withdraw the current defined contribution proposal and to work with the campus unions on an improved defined contribution option, as well as to fully explore defined benefit alternatives and options that retain an element of defined benefit.
“Withdrawing the current option and putting defined benefit options back on the table were understood to be the unions’ pre-conditions for recommencing discussions, but this proposed way forward was rejected.
University ‘remains committed to finding a solution’
“University management would welcome the opportunity to the opportunity to discuss cost and risk limits with unions.
“The university has a structured governance framework and consultation with our governing body was required before the meeting between the principal and unions could take place.
“We remain committed to finding a solution that will provide a dignified retirement for staff while being affordable for all parties and tackling the significant issues that UODSS faces.
“The scheme currently has a deficit of £55 million and the university has pledged £40m over the next 10 years to help address this.”