'Don't die on the picket line' - Lancaster University's chilling warning to staff ahead of strike action

16 March 2011

Lancaster University lecturers planning to take part in a national strike over pensions have been issued with a chilling warning that, should they die on strike days, their loved ones will be left without financial compensation.

In a newsletter to all staff, the university management warns that those who take part in national strike action next Tuesday (22 March) and Thursday (24 March) will have their pension contributions suspended for those days, which in turn renders them ineligible for death in service benefits.
The move on pension contributions by Lancaster University comes as staff at 63 UK universities take the first national strike action in universities for over five years, affecting well over a million students (1,241,655).
While it is routine for employees to lose a day's pay on a strike day, Lancaster University has upped the ante by increasing the proportion of pay lost from 1/365 to 1/260 of annual salary. Salford University had also proposed to make strikers ineligible for death in benefit service, but has since pulled back from taking such drastic action. The union has written to the Lancaster University asking it to reconsider.
UCU regional official, Martyn Moss, said: 'We will be warning all members to take extra care as they cross the roads on these two days! Joking aside, this is a first for Lancaster University and sets a very worrying precedent.
'We're confident our members will not be deterred from joining the picket line, as the proposed draconian changes to the pension scheme have incited a lot of anger. So far, we're seeing the exact opposite, with members telling us that this measure was the final deciding factor that has persuaded them to sign up for picket duty next week.
'For academic and related-staff, their pensions package is deferred pay that compensates 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.'
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.
The dispute is over detrimental changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme which will reduce pension benefits and increase costs, even though the scheme is in robust health. More information on the dispute can be found at: USS changes - key questions
Last updated: 11 December 2015