Unite Scotland can confirm today (5 October) that its members at the University of Dundee have voted to support strike action in a dispute over workers being plunged into ‘pension poverty’.

Unite’s members at the university supported taking strike action by 78 per cent in a ballot turnout of 67 per cent. Unite can also confirm that its members will now be on strike from 25 October 2021.

The University of Dundee propose to replace the existing Defined Benefit Pension Scheme with a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme for those on the lowest grades (i.e., grades 1-6). Workers in grades 7 and above will have their pensions protected through the existing UK wide Superannuation Scheme, which has a Defined Benefits element.
The pension proposals will mean that a clerical worker on a lower grade could lose up to 50% of their pension across the expected term of retirement. This could result in an amount of up to £150,000. The trade union also estimates that around 70 per cent of its members in the existing Superannuation Scheme are female. 

The consequences of the pension proposal, if it gets implemented, will mean that University of Dundee workers will have to work longer and contribute more into their pension – if they can - and they will still have no guarantees of the amount they will receive in retirement. Unite has over 100 members who will be adversely affected by the pension proposals.

Unite has put forward various proposals to the University of Dundee including allowing grades 1-6 to join the Pension Scheme which is afforded to grades 7 and above. The trade union has also asked for a recalculation of the pension valuation to be conducted, as this was initially done at the height of the Covid pandemic.  These proposals have all been rejected.
Susan Robertson, Unite industrial officer, said: “The First Minister, and the Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, have both urged the University of Dundee to get back round the table to find amicable solutions. However, the University has completely ignored these calls other than extending the consultation period over the proposals. They seem hell-bent on proceeding with a pension scheme which will disproportionally impact upon the lowest paid workers who are also predominantly women workers.
“The Minister for Higher Education and Further Education has strongly encouraged the University to apply ‘Fair Work Principles’.  These principles make it clear that employers, workers and trade unions should work together to reach the right decisions concerning workplace issues, and to ensure that workers are treated fairly and with respect.

“Yet, the proposals on the table will plunge workers into pension poverty and require them to work longer. Dundee is already a city with widespread deprivation. The University of Dundee prides itself on being the place to study.  It should pride itself on being the place to work as well.”