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University of Leeds UNISON members held a day of action today over attacks on the PAS pension scheme, a final salary scheme for non-academic staff. Staff held a well attended lobby of the University Council as well as a public rally for decent pensions earlier in the day.

Iain Dalton, Leeds North West Socialist Party

Around 70 people attended the rally which opened with soldiarity greetings being given from Leeds UCU, Leeds Against the Cuts and the National Pensioners Convention.

The main speaker was UNISON regional officer, Steve Torrence, who outlined the attacks on the pension schemes. Although the PAS scheme is 110% funded being £22.9m in surplus, and is expected to be £35m in surplus by 2013, management are still proceeding with attacks. They plan to increase contribution rates to 7.5% as well as bring pension entitlements in line with the state retirement, whereas at present those in the scheme could retire any time after 60 with no reduction in pension.

All this to attack, not a so-called ‘gold-plated pension’, but one that pays an average of £82 a week. As speakers from the floor pointed out, many low-paid, part-time workers struggle to afford pension contributions as it is. Others drew the link with other disputes over pensions with the same theme of work longer, pay more and get less, as well as calling for co-ordinated action with academic staff and students.

Around 60 UNISON and UNITE members came along to the lobby later that day to confront university council members as they went in to a meeting to vote on the decision. But this isn’t the end of the campaign, union members view this as just the start of a campaign on campus and seem determined to meet any attacks with determined resistance. The t-shirts distributed by the UNISON branch expressed the feelings of many workers in attendence, emblaxed with the words “Get Angry and Fight Back”.