UCU to reballot universities over pension concerns

University and College Union (UCU) members at 42 universities will face a reballot for potential strike action over pension and pay concerns, after previously missing the turnout threshold.

The ballots will open on Monday 6 December and close on 14 January, with UCU warning that further strike action is “likely in the new year” if the disputes are not resolved, with potentially even more universities affected.

A total of 23 universities will face reballots specifically over concerns around the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), having previously "narrowly missed" the turnout threshold.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, commented: “Next week staff at dozens of campuses will be going on strike over attacks on their pensions, pay and working conditions.

“In the new year, staff at 42 more universities could join them for a period of sustained and escalating industrial action.

“There is still time to avoid this disruption, but that is in the gift of vice chancellors who sadly are still choosing to ignore the serious concerns of staff rather than address them.”

Commenting in response, a spokesperson for UUK, which represents 340 USS Employers, said: “Strike action will not change the regulatory framework, nor the urgent need to keep the pension scheme affordable.

"Both employers and members will suffer from escalating and unaffordable contribution rises from April 2022 without reform. These would cause mass scheme member opt-outs, risk employer insolvency and seriously impact on the student experience.

“We have repeatedly stated our willingness to consult employers on any viable, affordable and implementable alternative proposal from the UCU, and we are still open to do so even at this late stage in the valuation.

“Employers are currently consulting all scheme members on the employer proposals. This consultation is with a considerably larger population than those potentially involved in industrial action, which is currently fewer than one in ten of the scheme’s membership.

"There is still time for scheme members to have their say on the proposals through this consultation which runs until 17 January 2022.”

UCU members have previously voted to back strike action, with three days of strike action to take place at 58 universities over the next week in light of concerns over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The proposals, which would see the salary cap for the scheme reduced from £60,000 a year to £40,000 a year and indexation capped at 2.5 per cent a year, were met with mixed reaction when published, with a modeller from UCU suggesting that members could face a 35 per cent defined benefit cut.

Universities UK (UUK), however, has previously argued that this is a "misleading" figure, with analysis from the USS trustee suggesting that there would be an annual pension reduction between 10 and 18 per cent.

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