Pension claims hit by delays

June 9, 1995

Thousands of part-time lecturers and other staff in old universities will have to wait until the autumn to know if they can claim pension rights backdated to 1976.

The delay follows the decision of a Cardiff industrial tribunal to abandon a test case brought by the Association of University Teachers last month.

It is one of several hearings in different sectors and regions to have been called off to allow for greater co-ordination of test cases.

The Central Office of Industrial Tribunals has received 60,000 claims for backdating following a European Court of Justice ruling last year extending pension rights to part-time employees.

Ground rules for a series of test hearings from the health, education and private sector groups involved will now be set at an initial directions hearing involving the Departments of Education and Employment on June 19 in London. The postponed case was lodged by two Swansea University part-time lecturers claiming the right to have their pensions backdated to 1976.

If they are successful the university, which wants to limit backdating, could face a bill estimated at Pounds 1 million, not only for lecturers but also academic related and support staff.

The largest number of claims could come from the Open University, which faces 16,000 individual claims if all staff who have worked for the university since 1976 make claims.

A decision on whether claims can be backdated to 1976 became even more urgent this week with the announcement of the Government's amendment to the 1993 Pensions Schemes Act which from May 31 will limit retrospective claims to two years for pensions under article 119 of the EEC treaty.

The AUT, Natfhe, Unison and others with similar cases will meet at the TUC on July 11 to identify a small number of test cases to be heard at Birmingham in the autumn. It is understood that if they are unsuccessful at industrial tribunal, they are likely to go all the way to the House of Lords.

David Triesman, AUT general secretary said that there was solid evidence throughout Europe that part-timers were treated as well as full-timers, something which had been rejected in this country for a very long period.

"Now as soon as you find that part-timers have acquired some rights, you find employers working flat out to erode them. It is a sad characteristic of the way the UK views its working population," Mr Triesman said.

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