Aberystwyth university unions to ballot for strike action over attack on pensions

Unions including UNISON, UNITE and UCU will be balloting their members for strike action at Aberystwyth university over proposals to close the current pension scheme and replace it with a significantly inferior alternative.

The university is consulting on proposals to close the defined benefit pension scheme and replace it with a defined contribution scheme for staff on grade 5 and below, which will mean that workers are considerably worse off during their retirement.

The employer’s consultation closes on 5 June and the trade union ballot closes on 13tJune.  The university council will then make its final decision at a meeting due ton 20 June.

 ”Some of our members could see their pensions cut by as much as 65%,” warned UNISON branch chair Dic Griffiths. ”Our members are faced with living in poverty when they retire if these changes go through.”

UNISON organiser Simon Dunn added: “Members of Aberystwyth university council will make the final decision about the future of this pension scheme. We call on them to rethink theses plans.  

“Student numbers have been falling, as has the university’s ranking in the HE sector.” 

He said that the attack on terms and conditions will ”not make the university a better place to work and it certainly won’t make it a better place to study.

“Our members should not be expected to pay the price for problems that the university faces, whilst senior management in the university enjoy performance related pay increases.  

Mr Dunn called on the council to carefully consider the options as the decision it takes will have a huge impact on the lives of the workers and their famililes, urging council members to “think long and hard before they agree to these changes which represent the biggest attack on staff pensions in any university in Wales.”

UNITE branch chair Wynne Ebenezer said: ”These changes will hit the lowest paid in the university, with around half of all staff affected. We will end up with the higher paid staff having a decent pension, and the rest being offered a poor alternative.”

UNITE organiser Allan Card added: ”The university has been unwilling to sit down and engage with the trade unions to look at what changes could be made to the current pension scheme as an alternative to closing it. 

“We don’t believe this change is necessary, but what we do know is that the proposals will mean our members being much poorer when they retire. 

“The proposals will also mean that lower paid staff in the university will have a worse pension, which is particularly galling as we know that there is an alternative.”

Speaking for the UCU, Martin Wilding said: ”Aberystwyth UCU joins our colleagues in UNISON and UNITE in asking the Aberystwyth university council to rethink the changes to the Aberystwyth University Pension Scheme, changes that raise the prospect of hardship in retirement for lower paid members of university staff.

“Some of our members are directly affected by these changes and while we hope it will not come to this, we are balloting the affected members on industrial action.

“The university depends greatly on the contribution of all its staff, especially now when fee paying students demand a high level of service to be provided by universities.

“This expectation has emerged as a clear driver for recruitment. UCU is concerned at the damage these moves will have on the university’s ability to provide necessary services and to reverse the marked trend of decline in student recruitment, beside our concern for the futures of our members and colleagues affected by the changes.”

UNISON in education

UNISON Cymru / Wales