USS members to strike over pensions

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) members from 60 universities will take strike action between 25 November and 4 December over proposed changes to the scheme.

University and College Union (UCU) announced the strike today, 5 November, after 79 per cent of participating UCU members voted to back the strike over changes to pensions.

It also backed strike action over pay and working conditions, which received 74 per cent of members’ support.

The union urged universities to respond “positively and quickly” if they wanted to avoid further industrial action this year.

Under the plans backed by universities, total contributions would be 30.7 per cent and the split would be 21.1 per cent for employers and 9.6 per cent for employees.

This represents a 0.8 per cent increase for members, from 8.8 per cent.

Universities UK (UUK) said that it was “hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action”, but that it has plans in place to minimise “any potential disruption to students and staff”.

A UUK spokesperson continued: “The resolution to the 2018 USS valuation is both fair and reasonable, with the additional costs of maintaining the current level of benefits shared 65:35 by employers and scheme members.

“It’s important to note that the number of UCU members who voted for strike action over pensions accounts for less than 10 per cent of the active membership of USS.

“Out of those who voted in the pensions ballot, 1 in 5 members were against taking industrial action, and the vast majority of branches only reached the turnout threshold of 50 per cent because of the numbers of members voting no.”

However, UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said that “any general election candidate” would be “over the moon” with a result similar to what the union achieved last week.

“The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions,” she added.

“Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about reballoting.”

The overall turnout in the USS ballot was 53 per cent and on pay and conditions it was 49 per cent.

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