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University staff to ballot on strike action before Christmas over pensions dispute

UNIVERSITY staff will ballot on whether to take strike action before Christmas in a dispute over pensions, pay and working conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced today that it will open a ballot to members next month on whether or not to take industrial action this term.

The dispute comes after a joint negotiating committee backed pension proposals put forward by Universities UK (UUK) to deal with an estimated £15 billion funding shortfall in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The union argues that changes to the USS will mean that a typical lecturer on a £42,000-a-year salary will lose 35 per cent of their guaranteed retirement benefits.

UCU’s higher education committee has confirmed that strike ballots will open at 152 institutions across Britain on October 18.

Six institutions will be balloted on USS only, 83 are to be balloted on pay and working conditions, and 63 institutions will be balloted over both issues.

The union has warned that universities could face action that will disrupt the end of term and continue into the next term unless employers return to negotiations with better offers for both disputes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff propped up the entire sector during the pandemic, but they are now being thanked with huge cuts to their pensions, unbearably high workloads, and another below-inflation pay offer — all whilst universities continue to generate a handsome income from tuition fees.

“The truth is that very well paid university leadership, who manage institutions with bigger turnovers than top football clubs, are choosing to exploit the goodwill of staff, repeatedly refusing to address the rampant use of casualised contracts, unsafe workloads or the shocking gender and ethnicity pay gap in the sector.”

National Union of Students president Larissa Kennedy offered her support for staff planning to take action, saying “students will hold employers responsible” if vice-chancellors do not come to “a negotiated settlement."

The UCU ballot will close on November 4 unless employers resolve the dispute beforehand and the union will consider its results on November 8, with action expected to take place before the end of the year.

A UUK spokesman on behalf of USS employers said the reforms “will prevent harmful and unaffordable rises in contributions.”
 

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