UK - Union leaders have accused the University of Leicester of discrimination against support workers after it closed its final salary pension scheme to new, non-academic staff.
Leicester’s move mirrors the University of Birmingham which closed its scheme to non-academic staff last year.
And it has prompted Amicus – Britain’s second largest trade union – to threaten strike action to prevent non-academic staff losing out elsewhere.
But University of Leicester director of finance Jon Gorringe said the scheme – which closed to new non-academic staff on August 1 – posed an uncontrollable risk.
“This was a transfer aimed at reducing pension risk rather than a cost-cutting exercise. We are still making significant contributions of 12% to the DC scheme, a similar amount as being paid into the existing scheme.”
Gorringe denied the scheme was discriminatory to non-academic staff but acknowledged there was a transfer of risk.
He also stressed that Leicester was obligated to put academic staff into the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
But Amicus pension officer Bryan Freake was outraged by the decision. He said: “It is clearly unfair to offer better schemes to academic staff. Administration staff, technicians, clerical and support workers will all lose out, which we believe is discriminatory.”
Mercer European partner Matthew Demwell pointed out that closing the scheme to non-academic staff, which some people might regard as discriminatory on grounds of salary, was an area not covered by UK law.
He said: “Unlike in the US, companies cannot discriminate on the grounds of salary and it could be a slippery slope if this was the case.
“If companies were unable to choose which benefits, such as pension schemes, to offer at different salary levels, the whole question of what people should be paid and the size of pay differentials would be put in the spotlight.”
*Amicus has met with former higher education minister Margaret Hodge to discuss the problem which it fears could become a common occurrence among universities.
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