Academic staff strike over USS changes

Academic staff strike over USS changes

Two days of strikes over plans to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) began today, affecting more than one million students at more than 60 higher education providers around the UK.

Academic staff will strike today and tomorrow, before the University and College Union (UCU) will return to the negotiating table with Universities UK, the trade body attempting to push through the changes.

Further strikes are planned for 26, 27 and 28 February, as well as 5, 6, 7 and 8 March, and 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 March.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We deliberately announced these strike dates to give universities time to come back round the table with us and get this mess sorted out. They have refused to do so and want to impose their reforms on staff. Unsurprisingly staff are angry and significant disruption on campuses across the UK now looks inevitable.”

“The key is how universities react to the action this week. We will be meeting on 2 March to consider what wave two of the action may need to involve and nothing is off the table. We doubt any universities want a prolonged dispute that carries on towards exam season and would urge vice-chancellors to put pressure on Universities UK to get back round the table with us.”

UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of 61 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.

According to the trade group, current USS members would continue to receive retirement incomes equivalent to 80 to 90% of those that would, hypothetically, have been received under the current benefits.

A spokesperson for Universities UK said: “The changes proposed will make USS secure, and sustainable, safeguarding the future of universities. University staff will still have a valuable pension scheme, with employer contributions of 18% of salary, double the private sector average.”

“This makes strike action very disappointing. Universities UK remains at the negotiating table, but so far UCU has refused to engage on how best to address the funding challenges facing USS.”

Categories: News, UK Pensions

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