Staff and university leaders are at loggerheads over plans to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme. A move the union says could cost lecturers £200,000 in retirement, Aban Contractor reports.
More than 60 universities could face 14 days of disruption next month after members of the University and College Union (UCU) backed industrial action in a row over potential changes to their pensions in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
Almost 90 per cent of UCU members who voted backed strike action and 93 per cent backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58 per cent. A full breakdown of the results by institution is available here.
The union’s higher education committee is meeting today to discuss the results and plan an industrial action strategy should talks about the future of the scheme fail to deliver a solution. Those talks are currently scheduled to finish on Tuesday.
UCU said Universities UK (UUK) wants to transform the scheme from a defined benefit scheme that gives a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme where pension income is subject to changes in the stock market.
Without reform now, universities will likely be forced to divert funding allocated from research and teaching to fill a pensions funding gap. The option of no reform is a dangerous gamble. It is a risk that employers cannot take. Universities UK
A Universities UK spokesperson said the prospect of industrial action at 61 out of the 68 higher education institutions balloted by UCU was disappointing as talks between employers and the union on USS pension reform continue.
“A solution to the significant funding challenges facing USS [which is reported to have a £17.5 billion deficit] needs to be found. UUK’s priority is to put USS on a secure and sustainable footing while offering attractive, market-leading pensions – the very best that can be afforded by both employers and employees,” the spokesperson said.
“We should be under no illusion; this is not a problem that will go away if ignored. To retain the status quo would only serve interests in the short term. Without reform now, universities will likely be forced to divert funding allocated from research and teaching to fill a pensions funding gap. The option of no reform is a dangerous gamble. It is a risk that employers cannot take.
Two rounds of cuts in USS benefits since 2011 have already left USS members with pensions worth less than those of school teachers and academics in the sector’s other pension scheme, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. University and College Union
“If industrial action takes place it could cause disruption to students at some universities. We hope that this can be avoided through further talks with UCU and that union members carefully consider the possible impact on students of taking industrial action.”
However, UCU said independent modelling by First Actuarial of the proposals showed that a typical lecturer would lose £200,000 in retirement if the UUK plans were imposed and pointed to a move last week by the vice-chancellors of Warwick and Loughborough universities who criticised UUK for failing to guarantee retirement incomes for USS members.
The union said it hoped that the overwhelming mandate for strike action would focus universities’ minds and that more vice-chancellors would publicly pressure UUK to agree a deal. UCU said it was happy for talks to be extended in an attempt to resolve the issue without strike action.
The union said that two rounds of cuts in USS benefits since 2011 have already left USS members with pensions worth less than those of school teachers and academics in the sector’s other pension scheme, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “UCU members have made it quite clear that they are prepared to take sustained strike action to defend their pensions.
“USS already offers worse benefits than other schemes available in universities, and UUK’s proposals would make matters worse. I hope more vice-chancellors will pressure their negotiators to work with us to resolve the matter without strike action.”
Sixty-one UK universities could be hit by industrial action
|Aberdeen, The University
Bath, University of
Birkbeck College, University of London
Bristol, University of
Cambridge, University of
City, University of London
Courtauld Institute of Art
Dundee, The University of
East Anglia, University of
Edinburgh, University of
Essex, University of
Exeter, University of
Glasgow, The University of
Goldsmiths, University of London
Hull, The University of
Imperial College London
Institute of Education
Kent, The University of
King’s College London
Lancaster, University of
Leeds, The University of
Leicester, University of
|Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Liverpool, University of
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Manchester, The University of
Nottingham, The University of
Oxford, University of
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen’s University Belfast
Reading, University of
Royal Holloway, University of London
Royal Veterinary College, University of London
Salford, The University of
Senate House, University of London
Sheffield, The University of
SOAS, University of London
Southampton, University of
St Andrews, University of
Stirling, The University of
Strathclyde, University of
Surrey, University of
Sussex, University of
University College London
University of the Highlands and Islands
University of Wales
University of Warwick
University of York