Unite the union will join sister trade unions - Unison and UCU – to demonstrate against proposed changes to pensions at the University of Dundee on Wednesday (29 September). The rally will be held in Dundee City Square at 12 noon.

In March 2021, the University of Dundee began a consultation process over proposed changes to the pension scheme. The university wants to replace the existing defined benefit scheme with a defined contribution scheme. This will mean that those on lower pay grades (i.e., grades 1-6) will directly lose out in retirement. In contrast, those in the highest pay grades (i.e., Grades 7 and above) will have their pensions protected through the existing UK wide Superannuation Scheme, which has a defined benefits element.

Unite has projected that the pension changes could lead to up to a 50 per cent cut in pension income for those on the lowest paid grades. The trade union also estimates that around 70 per cent of its members in the existing Superannuation Scheme are female.

Unite has over 100 members who will be adversely affected by the pension proposals. The trade union is currently balloting its members over industrial action. The ballot closes on 5 October.

Unite has requested that the University of Dundee address the potential impacts of the pension scheme changes on those with protected characteristics, for example, female workers who make up the overwhelming majority of members of this scheme.

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a duty on public authorities to consider or think about how their policies, or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. Unite has repeatedly attempted to engage the University of Dundee through the Equality Impact Assessment process, but many of the trade union’s questions remain unanswered.

Unite has also repeatedly asked for other pension options to be considered including the pension valuation to be re-calculated. The pension calculation was conducted at the start of the pandemic which the union claims was done at a juncture which supported the University’s worst-case scenario projections. The University of Dundee to date has refused to conduct a re-calculation exercise. Due to trade union pressure, the University has, however, agreed to extend the consultation period on the Superannuation Scheme to 14 November.

Susan Robertson, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite members have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic at a time which has been particularly difficult and challenging for the education sector. To be rewarded for this hard work with a pension cut of up to 50 per cent is a disgrace.

“The University of Dundee prides itself on its slogan ‘One University, One Dundee’. How much further from the truth could this slogan be? In practice, they are trying to create Two Dundees. One that protects the pensions of the highest paid, and another that decimates the pensions of the lowest paid who are predominately female. The University seem hell-bent on creating a two-tier workforce, and we will not tolerate our members being plunged into pension poverty which is why our members are being balloted on industrial action.

“The first minister has called on the University of Dundee, which is substantially government funded, to get back round the table so that we can jointly explore solutions which do not penalise staff, and disrupt education for the students. The question for the University of Dundee is: are you even listening?”


Notes to editors:

  • Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.