Education International
Education International

Lecturers vote in favour of action over pensions

published 15 September 2011 updated 16 September 2011

Lecturers at leading UK universities have voted for action over planned changes to their pensions with more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of University and College Union members, who took part in a ballot, voting for a “sustained campaign of industrial action.”

The UCU, an EI affiliate, 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. It says that pensions changes will leave new staff up to £120,000 worse off. The universities’ employers say that the scheme alterations are needed as costs rise because people are living longer.

The union has said that it is now discussing a long-term national plan of action with its branches and would continue “until there is a breakthrough.” Actions under consideration by the lecturers 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 all announced that they will consult their members about co-ordinated industrial action starting in November.

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.

“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.”