Support staff at the University of Manchester are being consulted about taking strike action over plans to cut their pensions by more than 20%.
The staff are members of the trade union UNISON, and the staff affected include cleaners, catering staff, security staff and administrators. Over 3,000 current scheme members stand to lose out, along with future employees of the university.
A security guard earning £22,000 would lose £1,375 per year in retirement, while a cleaner on £14,000 would lose £875 each year. The consultative ballot opens on Monday 1 October.
The campaign against the pension grab is supported by local Labour politicians including Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East and Shadow Education Minister. He said:
“The University of Manchester is a prestigious organisation and it is important that it serves the local community by being a good employer.
“The proposed cuts to pensions would hit the retirement incomes of the university’s lowest paid workers. Most of those affected are women, and many live locally.
“If these cuts go ahead, thousands of retired households in Manchester would have less income and less security in the future. That’s no good for the affected households or for our local communities. I urge the university to think again. If they need to save money then there must be a fairer way of doing it than this.”
The planned changes would involve pensions being calculated on a ‘career-average’ basis, which would reduce the retirement income further for staff who are promoted at any point during their career. The plans would also mean that the scheme would be closed to new members and new staff, and replaced with a riskier ‘defined contribution’ scheme.
Neelam Bhambra, UNISON North West Area Organiser said:
“The work that these staff do is vital to the smooth running of the university and for students’ experiences of academic life and living in Manchester. They are the lowest paid staff in the university and they deserve to have a decent income when they retire.
“The university is not a cash-strapped organisation. They have plenty of money for vanity projects and to pay very high salaries for some.
“We have seen the lecturing staff go on strike recently to protect their pensions. Support staff are angry and upset about these swingeing cuts to their retirement incomes, and they would be wholly justified in taking strike action to stop this raid on their pensions.”