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Dundee University staff to strike over pensions dispute

Unite members at Dundee University will take strike action from August 25 (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Unite members at Dundee University will take strike action from August 25 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Staff at the University of Dundee are to take industrial action for the second time over a pensions dispute, it has been confirmed.

Unite Scotland said on Wednesday that its members at the university will take part in continuous strike action from August 25 after 83% said they supported the move in a ballot turnout of 66%.

The row arose after the university proposed the closure of its defined benefit pensions scheme to Grades 1-6 and replace it with a defined contributions scheme in March 2021, which the union said meant the lowest-paid workers faced losing up to 50% of their pension.

The university withdrew the proposals after 11 days of strike action by Unite members in October last year, with the two sides going back into talks to explore other options.

However, Unite said on Wednesday that it had seen “insufficient movement” by the university.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite members have already rejected the defined contribution proposals and have been left with no choice but to now reject the defined benefits proposals as these will still leave hundreds of workers at the university worse off in retirement.

“Despite months of feet-dragging by the university we are no further forward.

“Our members have Unite’s full support in the defence of their pensions and strike action is now firmly back on the cards.”

Unite regional officer Susan Robertson added: “The university’s proposals would mean Unite members work longer, pay in more and receive less in retirement which is totally unacceptable.

“These are the lowest paid workers at the university and deserve to be treated fairly.

“The university’s own draft, equality impact assessment shows that women workers and young workers will be disproportionally affected, yet they are hell-bent on proceeding.”

A University of Dundee spokesperson said: “The university initially proposed changes to the University of Dundee superannuation scheme last year.

“Since that time, we have engaged in extensive consultation with staff and the campus unions and have continued to modify the proposals.

“We have recently completed analysis of the formal consultation exercise which closed on June 24, the results of which will inform the final proposal.

“An updated proposal is currently being developed and will be considered by the university court in August.”

The spokesperson added: “The proposed changes, in our view, offer a range of benefits to members of the pension scheme.

“The introduction of a defined contribution (DC) scheme will make pension provision more affordable for greater numbers of staff, especially the lower paid staff who find the existing defined benefit (DB) scheme too expensive to join. The DC scheme has variable rates of contribution so staff members can choose the rate of contribution they feel they can afford.

“Those in the DB scheme will have increased choice and flexibility as they can, if they wish, choose to come out of the DB scheme and join the DC scheme.

“The university’s original position was to close the DB scheme and move all staff into a DC scheme. After listening to staff and the campus unions, we revised the proposals and are now planning to keep the DB scheme open for existing members.

“Further benefits included among the proposed changes include a new benefit which the university is introducing to provide a death in service benefit to all staff, whether they are in a pension scheme or not.

“It is our sincere hope that we will ultimately have more staff who are able to join a pension scheme, thus helping address the issue of pension poverty, particularly for some lower-paid staff.”