Uni lecturers vote to strike over pensions

Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the  Association of University Teachers speaks during a rally held at Cardiff University.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers speaks during a rally held at Cardiff University.
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LECTURERS at Sheffield University are to go on strike next week for two days in a row over pensions - the first stoppage for five years.

Staff are to walk out on Tuesday, March 22 and Thursday, March 24, with Sheffield being among 63 English universities taking part in the action.

Sheffield Hallam will not be affected as the pension scheme under threat is mainly for staff in the original pre-1992 universities.

Member of the University and Colleges Union at the University of Sheffield have voted to protest against changes to the University Superannuation Scheme pension fund.

In a national ballot, two- thirds backed strike action, with four-fifths voting for action short of a strike.

But the universities’ Employers’ Pension fund claimed only eight per cent of the total academic staff had voted to walk out.

The English action follows a strike this Thursday in Scottish universities, with Wales and Northern Ireland to follow on March 18 and 21.

The walk out on March 24 will be nationwide and could affect more than a million students.

A UCU Sheffield spokesman said he was hopeful strike action could be avoided - although the employers had rejected the union’s invitation to meet for talks through the arbitration service, ACAS.

“If no resolution can be thrashed out before Thursday then the action will take place. The National Union of Students has also written to the employers urging them to join us for talks,” he added.

The union’s general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The last thing our universities need is widespread disruption and strike action always remains a last resort.

“However the employers must recognise the strength of feeling over pensions. Students clearly do and the NUS has written to both sides urging us to get round the table and sort this out.

“Our diaries are clear and our message to the employers is simple - sit down with us and sort this mess out.”

A spokesman for the Employers’ Pension Forum said: “The UCU’s figures show a low turnout and point to some 50,000 UCU members recognising that pursuing industrial action is not the answer to dealing with the very serious challenges we all face in the sector.

“There is much uncertainty at present and this course of action will only damage students, institutions and the sector as a whole.”

He added that the changes to the pension scheme had been under discussion for almost three years.