Belfast Council has told Queens University and University of Ulster to step in and reverse a proposed pension cut to its staff.
At the monthly meeting of the council, elected representatives agreed on a motion putting pressure on QUB and UU to rethink a proposal for a 35 percent cut on the Universities Superannuation Scheme payable to staff on retirement.
The University and College Union, which represents lecturers and support staff, last February led a 10 day strike over the pensions issue, as well as concerns with pay and workload.
Earlier this month Belfast City Council elected members gave cross party support to an SDLP motion calling on both local University Vice Chancellors to use their influence with the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association to resolve the pension dispute.
The council says an allocation from the university sector’s reserves, estimated at £46.8 billion, could be used to support the staff pension if required.
The motion states: “This council acknowledges the contribution to civic and economic life made by both Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster to the citizens of Belfast City.
“Belfast City Council also notes the high standard of teaching and research carried out by staff at both universities and the benefits made to the people of Belfast as an employer.
“This council is concerned at the current industrial dispute taking place throughout the university sector and in particular its detrimental impact upon the international reputation, civic and economic contribution of Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster to the city.
“This council is further concerned that the failure to resolve this dispute will mean staff will seek employment outside the sector impacting upon quality of teaching and research and the local and international standing as universities of excellence.”
It adds: “Belfast City Council is also concerned at the failure of Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association, of which Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster are members, in addressing the proposed 35 percent cut in the Universities Superannuation Scheme payable to staff on retirement.
“Belfast City Council is further concerned the Universities and Colleges Employers Association appear to have no resolve in negotiating an amicable solution and is therefore prolonging unnecessarily the industrial dispute.”
SDLP Councillor Brian Heading, who tabled the motion, said: “The two universities in our city have a social responsibility to retain their staff. Universities are more than glass and steel, they are centres for knowledge, and what we should be expecting are the highest standards in negotiating the retention of good quality staff.”
He said: “No one can deny the two universities are an economic asset to the city. We also have to acknowledge that staff, from the high, to the person that opens the gates and cleans the lecture theatres, are treated fairly.
“A pension is something we all contribute to, what you produce is then spent, and part of that goes into your pension. It’s not that the university is giving them anything, they earn their pension. And no one should have the right to arbitrarily make a cut in the value of that pension, and certainly not by 35 percent.”
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