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UK: Brace for strikes as talks over lecturers’ pensions deadlocked

Your lecture hall will highly likely look like this in February. Source: Pexels

Staff at 61 UK universities will likely go on strike from February onwards, as talks over the planned changes to staff pension are not resolved.

On Monday, members of the University and College Union (UCU) had voted in favour of strikes if talks failed, the BBC reported. Last-ditch talks held on Tuesday resulted in the joint negotiating committee of the pension scheme voting to proceed to change from a definite benefit scheme, which guarantees income in retirement, to a defined contribution scheme. The latter means their pension will be subject to changes in the stock market.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff will feel utterly betrayed by their leaders.”

“We are disappointed at how talks ended today, particularly after Universities UK (UUK) suggested yesterday that it wanted more talks to avoid strikes.

“Universities must be on notice that unless there are dramatic changes in their negotiators’ position then strike action will be arriving on campus next month.”

Universities affected include: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, UCL, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and York. The UCU on Monday announced a 14-day strike plan, starting from February.

The union also threatened to begin strikes on Feb 22 with a two-day walkout if last-ditch talks failed. It will increase the strikes to blocks of up to five days in future weeks too, affecting classes.

Staff at 68 universities are part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the sector’s main retirement fund. Last year, USS reported a GBP17.5 billion deficit and has demanded an extra GBP500 million a year from university employers and staff to fill a GBP5 billion funding hole.

The plans proposed is estimated to cost staff an average of GBP200,000 each.

Universities UK, which represents the employers, said the changes are necessary and “made in the best interests of university staff, to put USS on a sustainable footing for the long-term”.

“The scheme will continue to offer attractive pensions, through market-leading defined contribution benefits,” a spokeswoman said.

“If industrial action takes place, it could cause disruption for students at some universities.”

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