Universities staff to strike again over pay and pensions

Universities staff to strike again over pay and pensions
University students throw mortarboards into the air (Pexels/Emily Ranquist)

 More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities will strike on February 1, in a dispute that includes disagreement over the 2020 valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme

A further 17 days of strike action is due to take place over February and March, the University and College Union announced on January 16.

In October, the union obtained a mandate to strike in 150 universities over cuts to USS members’ benefits, pay and working condition disputes.

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The industrial action on February 1 will coincide with the Trades Union Congress’s “protect the right to strike” day.

Five unions – the UCU, the National Education Union, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers – have already confirmed they will join the protest against the government’s plans to introduce strike legislation through parliament, the TUC said.

The USS 2020 valuation, which yielded a £14.1bn deficit, is at the centre of the dispute. Proposed cuts were based on this valuation.

The scheme has since recovered to a surplus of £5.6bn and unions are opposed to reform proposals agreed between the USS trustee and Universities UK, which represents USS employers. The proposals promised greater covenant support and a moratorium on scheme exits in exchange for a comprehensive governance review.

The UCU has long argued that cuts to pensions were unnecessary and should be reversed, and has staged several rounds of strike action

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “While the cost of living crisis rages, university vice-chancellors are dragging their feet and refusing to use the vast wealth in the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant casualisation and massive pension cuts.

“On February 1, 70,000 university staff will walk out alongside fellow trade unions and hundreds of thousands of other workers to demand their fair share.

“UCU remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, but if university employers don’t get serious, and fast, more strike action will follow in February and March.”

Maria Espadinha is editor at FTAdviser's sister publication Pensions Expert