University of Manchester support staff to strike against pension attacks

Cleaners, caterers, security and admin staff are fighting to defend their right to a dignified retirement.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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Non-academic staff, including cleaners, catering workers, security staff and administrators, at the University of Manchester have been told that management plans to close its non-academic staff final salary pension fund, supplanting it with an inferior career average scheme. Worse still, new employees will be shoehorned straight into an invidious defined contribution scheme, with no level of retirement income guaranteed in advance at all.

If this swindle is allowed to go ahead, as many as 3,000 existing support workers will be hammered, with worse in store for newcomers. It has been calculated that a security guard currently earning £22,000 can expect to lose £1,375 per year from his retirement income, whilst a cleaner on £14,000 will lose £875 a year. (University of Manchester staff vote for strike action over pensions raid, FE News, 1 November 2018)

This amounts to legalised robbery. Pensions are not a charitable donation from the boss or a pat on the head for services rendered. Rather, they are deferred wages, earned by workers over years of toil, and theirs by right.

Now the university wants to renege on its side of the bargain, pulling the rug out from under the retirement plans of thousands of the workers who keep it running day in day out.

We are told that times are hard, and that the university cannot afford to meet its obligations. In that case, we should take a look at the miserably poor existence being eked out by its vice-chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell.

According to the university’s own figures, her annual salary in 2017 stood at £260,399, a figure that is 7.4 times greater than the median salary for all staff and 16.9 times greater than the lowest salary of all. Dame Nancy’s modest income is, needless to say, topped up by expenses, free private medical insurance and, of course, an extremely generous pension. (Remuneration of the President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester website)

The support workers are not in a mood to take this assault on their pension rights lying down. In a consultative ballot called by Unison, 89 percent voted in favour of strike action, on the back of which a formal strike ballot is now in progress, with strikes mooted in December.

They deserve the warmest support from all workers. ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ must become more than just a throw-away slogan; it must become a practical programme of solidarity in struggle.

Hands off our pensions!