University pension strikes to go ahead

University and College Union (UCU) members at 60 UK universities will go ahead with planned strike action over disputes regarding pay and pensions.

Eight days of industrial action are planned, starting Monday 25 November, after UCU was unable to reach an agreement with universities.

Increases to contribution rates for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) had been proposed by the employer, Universities UK, from 8 per cent to 9.6 per cent of salary for members.

Employer contributions were proposed to increase from 18 per cent to 21.1 per cent, but UCU was seeking an agreement of ‘no detriment’ to members and believed that universities should bear most of the costs.

UCU has warned that further strike action could follow in the new year if universities “failed to make improved offers” and is consulting with other universities about a ballot for further action.

As well as eight strike days, UCU members will begin “action short of a strike”, which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

Commenting, UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “It is quite staggering that the employers have allowed things to get to this stage and done so little to avoid the upcoming disruption.

“Instead of engaging seriously with us over the various elements of the disputes, they have been all spin and no substance.

“Universities appear to have learnt nothing from last year’s USS dispute, and are once again showing a dangerous level of complacency that completely underestimates the scale of anger amongst staff.

“If universities don’t change their tune, then next week’s action could just be the start with further waves of strikes involving more staff in the new year.”

Fieldfisher pensions lawyer, Jeremy Harris, believed that “significant changes in the pensions world” mean that “the time is ripe for universities to review their pensions strategy and options”.

He continued: “The rising cost of USS makes it appropriate for many universities and other participating employers to take their own separate legal advice and consider what steps could be taken to reduce or regulate their liability, whether as regards the scope of coverage of USS across their employees or as regards future participation in USS.”

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