Today, members of the UCU – University and College Union – are striking to protect their pensions. Many members of staff at the University of Bristol (and those who work at other universities but live in Bristol West) have told me of their frustration at having to take this action, and their desire for their employers to engage in meaningful dialogue with unions and staff members.
Staff are faced with the prospect of their pensions moving from defined benefits (DB) to (DC). They’re not alone in this, and this has implications for people in private and public sector jobs. This move makes planning for old age a lottery. Rather than knowing what proportion of your final salary you’re going to have as a pension, it’s all down to the highs and lows of the financial markets. And we all know how reliable they are!
It’s not too late for employer representatives to head off further disruption in this case, if they enter into proper negotiations over their staff’s pensions. I’m also frustrated that the government has sat on the sidelines and let this situation develop under their watch.
I’m lucky to represent a constituency with a world-class university in it, but it only achieves and maintains that status through the hard work of their staff – lecturers, librarians, technicians and administrators. It’s vital that their hard work and efforts are properly valued, and that their pensions are protected – especially given increased casualisation and precariousness within the higher education sector that this government has presided over. I have written to the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University about this. And I urge all the national bodies to get back to negotiating for the good of all staff and students, and the future of our wonderful university sector.