VIDEO: Hundreds gather in Sheffield to support university lecturers' strike action

Hundreds of people braved the blizzard to support a rally today for striking university lecturers in their fight for a fair deal on pensions.

Wednesday, 28th February 2018, 1:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th February 2018, 1:35 pm
Students attend the rally.

More than 500 union members and students led a protest march from the University of Sheffield down to Barker's Pool in Sheffield City Centre to make their voices heard.

The action is part of a series of strike days staged by members of the University and Colleges Union over proposed changes to their pensions that they claim could leave them thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Hundreds gather at the rally.

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Kieran Maxwell, president of the University of Sheffield's Students' Union, said: "We stand in full solidarity with staff in their fight for fair pensions.

"We have got to stand up against savage cuts on staff pensions and we are not going to stand by while out education is under attack."

Gleadless Valley councillor Lewis Dagnall, who is also a UCU member on strike, told the rally it is important to "keep the strike going" as it has "national importance."

The dispute centres on a proposal by Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme.

The rally.

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UUK said the scheme is in deficit and the only way to make it sustainable is to change it from a defined benefit scheme, giving members a guaranteed income in retirement, to a defined contribution scheme, where pensions are subject to changes in the stock market.

But members of the UCU insist the existing scheme is performing well and claim the new set up would leave a typical lecturer almost £10, 000 a year worse off in retirement.

89 per cent of the 1, 300 members of the UCU at Sheffield - made up of lecturers, researchers, student advisors, librarians and admissions staff - voted in favour of strike action.

Hundreds gather at the rally.

Representatives of the UCU and UUK have now agreed to get around the discussion table to try and resolve the dispute. The conciliation service Acas will contact both parties to arrange talks.

But in the meantime the planning 14 days worth of strike action will continue into March.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "In the interests of students and university staff, it is vital that there is a fair and sustainable resolution to the dispute about pensions.

The rally.

"I have conveyed to UUK our belief that talks should take place without any pre-conditions so that all options and potential solutions can be explored. The aim must be for a resolution to the current dispute which works for all."