Cleaners, caterers, librarians, administrators, exams officers and other low-paid staff at the University of Southampton will lose thousands of pounds in their retirement if proposed pension changes are pushed through, unions have warned today (January 15).
Unite and UNISON say there is no need to close the final salary pension scheme at the end of July, as top managers at the university are proposing. A consultation over the changes opened on Friday, and closes mid-March.
Southampton University wants to replace the defined benefit scheme with a defined contribution one. This would see the 2,000 support staff currently contributing to the pension scheme putting in much more, yet getting out significantly less – even if they were to pay in the maximum amount.
Both unions, which represent about 700 support staff across the university, are meeting today to work out their next steps.
Unite and UNISON have put forward an alternative paper, setting out why they believe the university’s proposals are flawed. They are offering to discuss their compromise suggestion, which would involve a move to a career average scheme.
The unions say the plan to slash the retirement incomes for low-paid staff should be viewed against the controversial pay package of a reported £433,000 for the university’s vice-chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden.
“We’ll engage constructively with the consultation process, but there’s no need for this well-funded final salary pension scheme to close,” said Unite regional coordinating officer Ian Woodland.
“The defined benefit scheme must continue for existing and new members of staff after the beginning of August.
“The university concedes that the proposals will lead to a massive reduction in the pension that its support staff could expect to earn during their future employment. For a typical employee in mid-career, the reduction could reduce their future service pension by two-thirds.”
UNISON University of Southampton steward Adrian Dolby said that morale across the university was already low.
“Staff are overworked and feel undervalued, while uncertainty over restructuring plans is adding to their stress levels,” he said. “Now they hear their pension is under attack — this could be the final straw.”