University staff to go on strike following row over pensions

Many lecturers across the University will go on strike next Tuesday 22 and Thursday March 24 over a dispute about pensions.

Members of University and College Union (UCU) at the University will walk out following proposed changes to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which affects their pensions.

The total number of staff who decided to strike will be announced after the strikes have taken place.

Sheffield Hallam University staff will not be striking, as the proposed changes only affect universities established before 1992.

Overall, two-thirds of the UCU members who voted nationally called for a strike.

The results for the University were 58.7 per cent in favour of strike action, and 71.8 per cent in favour of action short of a strike.

UCU say that the changes to pensions mean that existing employees would have to pay more for their pensions, while staff not yet on the scheme will receive smaller pensions altogether.

They also say they fear that staff made redundant would lose their pension benefits.

A total of 63 universities around the UK will see staff walking out. Strikes took place in Scotland on March 17 and Wales on March 18.

The Employers’ Pension Forum (EPF), which works on behalf of the universities, said that only 6 percent of staff had voted to walk out.

A document on the University website said that UCU members had refused to attend meetings with the University.

A University spokesperson said:  “Around 36 per cent of UCU membership at Sheffield participated in the ballot, with 223 UCU members at the University of Sheffield voting for strike action in respect of the changes to USS – approximately 21 per cent of UCU membership at this University, and 5 per cent of the total number of staff at the University consulted about the changes to USS.

“The University will remain open on March 22 and 24.

“It will do its utmost to minimise the impact on students and to ensure business continuity.

“The University will be asking Heads of Department to ensure that, if necessary, classes are re-scheduled, and that students are kept informed of any changes.

“Unless advised otherwise, students should assume that classes will go ahead as usual.

“The University has proactively consulted and communicated with staff and their representatives throughout and worked to respond and resolve their concerns as quickly as possible.

“It is therefore regrettable that UCU have decided to take this action.”

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff are sick to the back teeth of being told that hard-won pensions benefits need to be cut to pay for an economic crisis created by others.

“As things stand, new starters in the USS scheme will see more than one-third wiped off their annual pension entitlement, while in TPS the average lecturer faces a £90 increase in costs per month in exchange for reduced benefits.”

A UCU statement issued to its members at the beginning of March said: “Hopefully strike action will not be necessary, but if it is needed it is vital that it is well supported.

“You will be taking action to defend the pensions of future employees as well as yourself.”

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