Pensions protest at University open day

Uniite and Unison members protest at Sheffield University over cuts to their pensions
Uniite and Unison members protest at Sheffield University over cuts to their pensions

THOUSANDS of prospective students got a lecture they didn’t expect when they came face to face with Sheffield University staff who face having their pensions slashed.

Young people and their parents visiting the University’s open day on Saturday took the time to talk to workers protesting over the University Council’s decision to cut the pensions of the lowest paid staff.

Bosses at the University say it was ‘disappointing’ staff chose the open day to hold the protest.

Around 2,000 porters, cleaners and office staff earning as little as £14,000 a year are affected by the change, while high earners - including Vice Chancellor Keith Burnett who receives £294,000 annually - will continue to benefit from membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme and its final salary pension provision.

Unison Regional Organiser Phil Booth said: “It will be quite apparent to those prospective students just what sort of management is in charge of Sheffield University.

“Instead of the current final salary scheme, at one 80th of salary per year worked, the university is proposing a cash balance scheme for the lowest paid staff which would see them receive just one 325th of final salary per year worked.

“It is a needless and vindictive attack on the lowest paid. It will devastate people’s pensions and condemn our members to a life of poverty in retirement.

“Meanwhile, the managers who are doing this, and the highest paid university employees, will see no change to their pension rights.

“They want to force the lower paid staff - 70 per cent of whom are women - to suffer massive cuts to their pensions.”

Mike Robinson, Unite national officer, added: “The university is treating some of its lowest paid staff with utter callousness and disrespect. Our members now face substantial losses to their pensions as the scheme proposed could reduce benefits for a typical member by a quarter.

“We are urging the university to sit down with us and negotiate a way forward as it has failed to make a convincing case for such draconian and divisive changes being necessary. We want people treated equally, regardless of grade.”

A University of Sheffield spokesman said: “The university regrets that the trade unions decided to hold a rally when we were welcoming 8,000 visitors, including 4,500 prospective students and their parents to our busiest open day of the year.

“The open day is a chance for prospective students to form an opinion of the university and of the city as places to study and live.

“Whilst we support the unions’ right to peaceful protest, it is disappointing they chose this day.”