The dispute at Sheffield University continues as the University appear unwilling to negotiate.
Management intend to create a two tier workforce by downgrading the pensions of lower paid staff including technical grades, cleaners, porters and security guards many of whom earn as little as £14,000.
However no changes are being proposed to pensions of the higher paid who will keep their defined benefit scheme.
This is a huge blow to the lower paid members of staff. The university’s own equality impact assessment identified that women were going to be disproportionately affected as they are heavily represented in this group.
Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “We are very disappointed that the university of Sheffield has taken this decision to penalise its low-paid staff, many of whom are women. The creation of a two tier workforce based on the grades of the staff is a huge step backwards for the sector, the university and the staff who work there.”
Chris Daly, Unite regional officer, said: “We have had fantastic support from our members and the wider public, many of whom are shocked that the senior management would ever recommend this decision."
To date Unite and Unison members at the university have taken two strike days to highlight their plight. These led to the closure of buildings and cancelling of lectures in June. They also demonstrated at the University Open Day on 18th June.
Mike Robinson, Unite national officer, said: “The university is treating some of its lowest paid staff with utter callousness and disrespect. As well as losing their jobs, our members now face substantial losses to their pensions as the scheme proposed could reduce benefits for a typical member by a quarter. This would be devastating for these staff who are already very poorly paid.
“We believe the university is proposing these changes only to shift the risk associated with the pension from itself onto our members, who find this a wholly unacceptable tactic. It is worth remembering that the pension spend for these grades accounts for only 20 per cent of the overall expenditure on pensions.
“We are urging the university to now sit down with us and negotiate a way forward as it has failed to make a convincing case for such draconian and divisive changes. We want people treated equally, regardless of grade.”
This is an important dispute and is an early example of workers protecting their pensions as the ideological driven cuts agenda begins to bite those that are least able to afford losing their livelihoods and benefits.
Please send messages of support to Chris.Daly@unitetheunion.org