Universities to be hit with 14 strike days over USS

Universities to be hit with 14 strike days over USS

UK universities face an initial 14 days of escalating strike action if a row over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is not resolved.

Sixty-one universities would be hit with a wave of strikes and other forms of industrial action by University and College Union (UCU) members from 22 February.

Other action would include union members working strictly to their contract, which would see them refusing to cover or reschedule classes lost on strike days. They would also decline to undertake any voluntary duties.

The planned action has been announced after UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%.

Last year, Universities UK proposed changes to the USS to address deficit issues and a significant rise in the cost of future pensions.

A deficit of approximately £7.5 billion and the cost of funding current benefits has risen by at least 11 percent, prompting calls for a change.

Universities UK, which represents 350 higher education employers in the USS pension scheme, has proposed delivering future benefits through the the USS Investment Builder section, a defined contributions scheme.

UCU has warned that the changes threaten its members’ pensions. General secretary Sally Hunt said: “Universities will be hit with levels of strike action not seen before on UK campuses if a deal cannot be done over the future of USS pensions. Members have made it quite clear they are prepared to take action to defend their pensions and the universities need to work with us to avoid widespread disruption.”

“Even at this late stage we urge universities to work with us to reach an agreement that protects the defined benefit element of USS pensions.”

The latest round of talks on the future of USS are scheduled to finish today. Commenting on the results of the UCU ballot on possible strike action, a Universities UK spokesperson said: “The prospect of industrial action at 61 out of the 68 higher education institutions balloted by UCU is disappointing as talks between employers and the union on USS pension reform continue.”

“A solution to the significant funding challenges facing USS needs to be found. Universities UK’s priority is to put USS on a secure and sustainable footing while offering attractive, market-leading pensions–the very best that can be afforded by both employers and employees.”

“We should be under no illusion, this is not a problem that will go away if ignored” the spokesperson went on to say. “To retain the status quo would only serve interests in the short term. Without reform now, universities will likely be forced to divert funding allocated from research and teaching to fill a pensions funding gap. The option of no reform is a dangerous gamble. It is a risk that employers cannot take.”

“If industrial action takes place it could cause disruption to students at some universities. We hope that this can be avoided through further talks with UCU and that union members carefully consider the possible impact on students of taking industrial action.”

Categories: News, UK Pensions

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