Education & Family

Lecturers vote in favour of action over pensions

pickets at Liverpool University
Image caption Delegates at the UCU annual congress in May backed a motion calling for a ballot

Students at 67 leading UK universities could face disruption to courses from October, as lecturers vote for action over planned changes to their pensions.

Over three-quarters (77%) of University and College Union members who took part in a ballot voted for a "sustained campaign of industrial action".

UCU says pensions changes will leave new staff up to £120,000 worse off.

University employers say the scheme alterations are needed as costs rise because people are living longer.

The union said it was now discussing a long-term national plan of action with its branches and said it would continue "until there is a breakthrough".

Actions under consideration include working-to-contract and working-to-rule.

UCU members may also consider setting exams but not marking them and, if required, escalating the action to include a full assessment boycott.

The action is likely to begin in mid-October.

The result of the ballot comes as Britain faces the threat of mass walkouts by other public sector workers over pensions.

Unison, Unite, the GMB and the Fire Brigades' Union have announced they will consult members about co-ordinated industrial action starting in November.

Changes 'imposed'

The UCU is fighting against a shift to a career average scheme for new entrants to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), as well as changes to pensions entitlements for staff over the age of 55 who are made redundant

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "These changes have been imposed without the agreement of staff, and our vote shows members are determined to defend their pension rights. Despite a taxpayer-funded campaign of misinformation, staff know that the imposition of these detrimental changes are wholly unnecessary.

"Industrial action is always a last resort for educators and we will work closely with students to minimise problems where possible. However, the nature of any industrial dispute means disruption and there will be widespread and sustained disruption unless USS is prepared to return to the negotiating table.

"Today I once again repeat my plea to USS to turn away from a policy of imposition without agreement. Without real and meaningful negotiations our universities, and those who work and study in them, will suffer, which is in no one's interests."

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) said it was disappointed by UCU's announcement of action.

A spokesman said: "The changes to the scheme were approved by the USS Trustee Board, which includes UCU representation, on the 9 June. This followed exhaustive negotiations and consultation.

"They are moderate by any standards and include the retention of a final salary pension for all existing USS members."

Universities affected

In England, a total of 52 universities will see disruption: Cambridge, Cranfield University, East Anglia, Essex, the Open University, University College Suffolk, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Birkbeck College, Courtauld Institute, Institute of Education, King's College London, University of London (Institutes and activities), London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Oriental and African Studies, School of Pharmacy, University College London, Royal Veterinary College, Brunel, City University, Goldsmiths College, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Queen Mary College (University of London), George's Hospital Medical School, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, Lancaster, Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Manchester, Salford, Durham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oxford, Reading, Southampton, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Aston, Birmingham, Keele, Warwick, Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York.

In Wales: Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Trinity St Davids (Lampeter) and Swansea universities are affected.

In Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling and Strathclyde universities will suffer action.

And in Northern Ireland: Queen's and Ulster universities are affected.

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