Proposed pension changes will hit lowest paid university staff

In recent years they’ve seen the value of their pay fall, now the university wants to cut their income in retirement too

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 (Monday).

UNISON and Unite 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 (Monday) to work out their next steps.

UNISON and Unite 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.

UNISON and Unite 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.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Ian Woodland said: “We’ll engage constructively with the consultation process, but there’s no need for this well-funded final salary pension scheme to close.

“The final salary 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: “This is terrible news for support staff, many of whom are on very low wages. In recent years they’ve seen the value of their pay fall, now the university wants to cut their income in retirement too.

“Morale is low across the university. Staff are overworked and feel undervalued, while uncertainty over restructuring plans is adding to their stress levels. Now they hear their pension is under attack. This could be the final straw.

“The scheme being proposed is vastly inferior to the current one. If we can’t persuade the university to back down, staff will be significantly poorer in their old age. This is quite simply unacceptable.”

Notes to editors:
– The consultation on the proposed changes to the University of Southampton Pension & Assurance Scheme for Non-Academic Staff (PASNAS) started on Friday 12 January and runs until Tuesday 13 March 2018.
– Similar changes are being proposed to the pension scheme for the university’s teaching staff.
– The university is planning to introduce the defined contribution scheme on 1 August. Benefits that scheme members have accrued in the final salary scheme up until 31 July are protected.

Media contacts:
Shaun Noble, Unite T: 020 3371 2060 M: 07768 693940 E:
Liz Chinchen, UNISON T: 020 7121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: