Staff at the University of Dundee have voted to take strike action to prevent the closure of their pension scheme.
Unison union members voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposals in March, and they have now formally voted to take strike action if the university fails to meet their demands.
Workers previously rejected plans they say will leave some workers 40% worse off in retirement, and lead to “retirement poverty”.
Pensions ‘slashed’ by up to 40%
The university is proposing to shut down a pension scheme for staff such as cleaners, administration workers, and caterers in Dundee.
Union officials say this means those on the lowest wages could see retirement funds slashed by up to 40%.
Meanwhile, higher-paid staff, who are enrolled in a different scheme, will be unaffected.
Unison branch secretary Phil Welsh said there was anger amongst staff. “The angry reaction of our members to the proposals has led to the university extending their consultation process by six months.
“While we welcome this development, our members have shown that they will be prepared to take action if significantly improved proposals are not tabled by the employer.
“We will be making detailed representations to the employer over the next fortnight and we expect them to respond. The existing proposals will lead to staff retiring into pension poverty, with the university’s own figures suggesting a 40% cut in retirement incomes for scheme members.
“We cannot allow this to happen. Destroying the retirement hopes of hundreds of workers while trashing the reputation of this great university as an employer of choice in the city.”
Strike action has occurred before, such as in February last year, when workers protested pay, pensions and working conditions.
A spokesman for the University of Dundee said: “The university is proposing changes to future benefits in the University of Dundee Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme (‘UODSS’) which would affect staff who are either members or eligible to be members of UODSS.
“If the proposals go ahead, a new arrangement will be put in place and current members of UODSS and those staff eligible to join the scheme will be offered this new arrangement.
‘Dignified retirement for staff’
“The benefits members have already built up within UODSS are protected and not affected by this proposal.
“We remain committed to offering competitive pension options which offer a dignified retirement for staff, but this provision has to be affordable for all parties.
“This includes for those who find the current scheme unaffordable.
Aim to avoid industrial action
“We are currently in a consultation period regarding the proposed changes and, having taken into account the views of the campus unions, we have agreed to extend the period of consultation, for the full six months as requested by the unions.
“This extension is a reflection of our commitment to consultation and to giving staff and their unions every opportunity to engage fully in the process.
“Our hope is any proposed industrial action is suspended to allow the consultation process to proceed constructively for the benefit of all parties.’