Dundee pensions attacks: university unions urge minister to intervene

UNISON, UNITE and UCU have jointly written to Richard Lochhead, the Universities Minister, urging intervention on Fair Work grounds in response to attacks on pension rights at both Dundee universities.

At the University of Dundee, professional and support services staff are threatened with the imminent closure of their defined benefit pension scheme, meaning cleaners, security officers, library workers and administrators will lose thousands of pounds per year when they retire. There are no proposals to reduce pensions benefits for senior management. The unions say this is a drastic attack on a predominantly low-paid, female workforce.

At Abertay, the university is proposing closing off access to a quality, defined benefit pension scheme (SLGPS) to research, professional and support staff. This would create a two-tier workforce, again costing people thousands of pounds per year in their retirement.

In both cases, disputes are imminent and industrial action is a real possibility. The unions are urging the Minister to use his influence to strongly assert Fair Work norms and force a fair resolution that respects the contribution of all staff.

Lorcan Mullen, UNISON Scotland’s higher education lead officer, said: “The proposed attacks on support staff pensions at Dundee University are outrageous and cannot be reconciled with the Scottish Government’s Fair Work agenda. It is particularly shameful that the lowest paid-staff are facing this attack, while the senior management pushing this proposal retain their defined benefit pension scheme. We are calling for these proposals to be withdrawn, and for serious talks to begin with unions on a fair long-term solution.”

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: “Pensions are deferred pay, and we are deeply alarmed that both employers are trying to attack staff pensions in this way.  Dundee is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with lower life expectancy levels. Now the university employers are attempting to reduce pensions benefits so staff will be worse off in retirement.”

Alison MacLean, Unite regional officer, said: “Many support staff impacted by these proposals have worked tirelessly to provide essential services throughout an extremely challenging period. The operation of the higher education sector has been turned on its head during the ongoing pandemic but the workers at these two universities have risen to the challenge to keep the operation running. Therefore, to be informed that their pension rights are now under attack is shameful. The reality of these proposals will be the loss of thousands of pounds per year for workers when they retire. The sector is already trapped in a low pay and precarious work situation. Unite is calling on both universities to reconsider their plans or we will be moving forward to resist these unjust proposals.”


You can read the full contents of the letter to Richard Lochhead here.

For further information, contact:

Lorcan Mullen – 07903853116

Alison MacLean – 07793662077

Murdo Mathison (UCU) – 07967 503909