University worker forced to give up pension as UNISON ballots for higher education strike

Cardiff University worker Katie Hall

A university worker in Wales has been forced to give up on her pension as rising bills and the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

Sky high rental prices have meant Katie Hall (pictured above) has had to withdraw from her pension just to be able to put a roof over her head and afford her monthly bills.

The Cardiff University residences assistant manager is among thousands of higher education workers in Wales being asked to vote for strike action in a bid to secure an above inflation pay rise.

Katie said: “My wage pays for everything.

“Last month my landlady told me that she plans to sell the house that I am currently renting.

“I have been here for just over four years and luckily have had no rent increase in that time.

“But, when looking at other properties to rent I found I was looking at at least an extra £150 – £200 on monthly rent.

“I can’t afford a deposit to buy so renting really is my only option but the only way I can do that is to withdraw from my workplace pension.

“The most frustrating part of that is that it is only in recent months that I have paid off some long-term debts and been in a position to join the pension scheme – only to find myself coming out of it a couple of months later.

“If we had received a fair pay increase then who knows what position I’d be in now, but I am sure that financially it would be better than where I am heading.

“I’m approaching my mid-forties and it does worry me that I have no pension plan and no idea when I will be able to join a pension scheme again.”

UNISON Cymru/Wales, which is the largest union representing higher education workers in Wales and across the UK, will be sending out ballot papers this week on Friday July 22 calling for support for strike action.

The ballot reflects the widespread worry and anger of low-paid staff working in higher education who are struggling in the face of rising bills.

Pay rises for university and college staff over the last 13 years have not kept up with inflation and the current cost-of-living-crisis has brought this to a head.

Lynne Hackett, head of Higher Education for UNISON Cymru/Wales, said: “Making the decision to take strike action is never easy for our members in universities, they take great pride in their work and are dedicated to creating the best student experience and supporting their colleagues.

“The time has come to make a stand and these workers have struggled for long enough.

“Our call is to our members in Wales to vote yes for strike action and ensure their voice is heard. We need their employers to ensure that the great service provided by the staff is fairly rewarded with a decent pay rise. They deserve so much more.”