First strikes over pensions look likely this month as employers refuse to talk
UCU said this morning that strikes over pensions looked more likely after the Employers Pension Forum (EPF), who are tasked with negotiating on behalf of the universities, rejected talks with the union.
UCU had asked EPF to join it for talks through the arbitration service, ACAS, to try and resolve the dispute over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension fund. However, EPF has replied refusing talks. Yesterday NUS president, Aaron Porter, also wrote to the employers asking them to join UCU for talks and avoid strike action.
Well over a million students (1,241,655*) at 63 UK universities will be hit with the first national strike action in universities for five years later this month unless the dispute can be resolved. Strikes are planned in Scotland on Thursday 17 March, in Wales on Friday 18 March, in Northern Ireland on Monday 21 March and in England on Tuesday 22 March. There will then be a second day of strike action across the UK on Thursday 24 March.
UCU 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 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 simply: sit down with us and sort this mess out.
'Decent pensions are essential if the UK has any interest in retaining its best and brightest; they are not an optional extra. UCU members are prepared to take their first national strike action for five years because they see their pensions as deferred pay. Their pensions compensate for the lower salaries they receive carrying out research and teaching in universities than they would get if they chose to use their highly-specialised knowledge and skills elsewhere.'
Last week UCU members of the USS scheme at those 63 universities voted for strike action and action short of a strike. Taken overall, two-thirds (64.55%) of UCU members who voted, voted for strike action and over four-fifths (82.19%) voted for action short of a strike. Members at institutions that voted for action will be asked to strike against the detrimental proposals from university employers to reduce pension benefits and increase costs even though USS is in robust health. More information on the dispute can be found at: 63 universities to be hit with strike action this month as UCU announces strike dates