Clegg is odd man out in MPs’ call for University of Sheffield pensions rethink

The University of Sheffield has put on hold plans to cut the pensions of its lowest-paid staff after all local MPs with the exception of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg “urged a rethink”.

April 12, 2011

Sheffield’s council yesterday said it wanted “more time to reflect” on the plans, despite university management recommending they should be approved.

The university had proposed that its final-salary scheme for support staff should be shut down – for both current and new members.

The Unison and Unite unions have warned that they will ballot for industrial action if the plans go through.

They say the new pension scheme would give a support-staff member earning £15,000 a year an annual pension of £3,750, down from £7,500 under the current scheme.

Mike Robinson, national education officer for Unite, said: “This is a small but important victory. It gives everyone more time for talks…The campaign was boosted by all Sheffield MPs bar Nick Clegg writing to the vice-chancellor [Keith Burnett] urging a rethink.”

Under the university’s plans, support staff on national pay points six and seven would have been allowed to join the final-salary Universities Superannuation Scheme, designed for academics. But those on pay grades one to five would join a lower-value “cash balance” scheme.

In a joint submission to the council, the four campus unions say the proposal “sends a clear message to grade one to five staff that they are not valued and are seen as expendable in relation to their higher-paid colleagues”.

Ben Thomas, national education officer for Unison, said Sheffield’s plan to stop future accruals for current scheme members was “a breach of the promise people were given when they started working”.

A Sheffield spokeswoman said: “Following lengthy discussion by members of council it was agreed that more time was required to reflect further on the proposals.”

A special council meeting will now be convened “with the aim of reaching a final decision”, she added.

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