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University staff vote for 'sustained campaign of industrial action' as employers impose pension cuts

14 September 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

67 of the UK's biggest universities and over one million students affected • Vote follows imposition of two-tier pension system without members' agreement • Staff face six figure losses from pension pots

As more unions signal their intent to ballot members over changes to pension schemes, members of UCU in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) have today voted for a campaign of sustained industrial action in protest at the imposition of changes to their pensions.

USS, which is the second largest private pension scheme in the UK, is imposing changes on its members which include:

  • increased contributions
  • lower pensions for new staff
  • reduced protection against inflation
  • reduced pensions for staff made redundant

Over three-quarters (77%) of UCU members who voted, voted for the sustained campaign of industrial action. The union is now discussing a long-term national plan of action with its branches. The action is likely to begin in mid-October and UCU warned today that it will continue until there is a breakthrough.

Actions under consideration to start the campaign include working-to-contract and working-to-rule. If the employers still refuse to negotiate then the union will consider setting exams but not marking them and, if required, escalating the action to include a full assessment boycott. UCU members also voted in favour of strike action, which the union said may be a feature of its campaign.

UCU said an increased turnout compared to the last ballot, despite the fact that the vote took place during the summer months, was evidence of members' strong feelings. The union said the employers had waged a campaign of misinformation, including a taxpayer-subsidised advert aimed at persuading staff the scheme was in trouble based on a snapshot of its value, rather than a proper valuation.

Last month leaked documents revealed that any deficit in the USS scheme was expected to be lower than publicly predicted.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'These changes have been imposed without the agreement of staff, and our vote shows members are determined to defend their pension rights. Despite a taxpayer-funded campaign of misinformation, staff know that the imposition of these detrimental changes are wholly unnecessary.

'Industrial action is always a last resort for educators and we will work closely with students to minimise problems where possible. However, the nature of any industrial dispute means disruption and there will be widespread and sustained disruption unless USS is prepared to return to the negotiating table.

'Today I once again repeat my plea to the employers to turn away from a policy of imposition without agreement. Without real and meaningful negotiations our universities, and those who work and study in them, will suffer, which is in no one's interests.'

notes

UCU members in the USS scheme work in the pre-92 universities, often described as the 'traditional' universities (a full list is below). Around 40,000 academic and academic-related staff were balloted.

UCU members in further education colleges and the new post-92, or 'modern' universities are in the Teachers' Pension Scheme, and are part of the current dispute with government over changes to public sector pensions. UCU members in the TPS scheme voted for strike action earlier this year and took strike action at the end of June. That ballot is still valid, should the need arise for further industrial action this autumn.

Result:

  • Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?
    YES: 9,494 (58.06%)
    NO: 6,857 (41.94%)
  • Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?
    YES: 12,510 (76.69%)
    NO: 3,802 (23.31%)
  • Turnout 42%

The full list of universities that will face disruption as part of the USS dispute are:

INSTITUTION

REGION

1.

The University of Cambridge

EASTERN

2.

Cranfield University

3.

The University of East Anglia

4.

The University of Essex

5.

The Open University

6.

UC Suffolk


7.

The University of Leicester

EAST MIDLANDS

8.

Loughborough University

9.

The University of Nottingham


10.

Birkbeck College

LONDON NORTH

11.

Courtauld Institute

12.

Institute of Education

13.

King's College London

14.

University of London (Institutes and activities)

15.

London School of Economics and Political Science

16.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

17.

The School of Oriental and African Studies

18.

The School of Pharmacy

19.

University College London

20.

Royal Veterinary College


21.

Brunel University

LONDON SOUTH

22.

The City University

23.

Goldsmiths College

24.

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

25.

Queen Mary College (UL)

26.

St George's Hospital Medical School

27.

Royal Holloway and Bedford New College


28.

The University of Lancaster

NORTH-WEST

29.

The University of Liverpool

30.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

31.

The University of Manchester

32.

The University of Salford


33.

University of Durham

NORTHERN

34.

The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne


35.

The University of Oxford

SOUTHERN

36.

The University of Reading

37.

The University of Southampton


38.

The University of Kent

SOUTH-EAST

39.

The University of Surrey

40.

The University of Sussex


41.

The University of Bath

SOUTH-WEST

42.

The University of Bristol

43.

The University of Exeter


44.

Aston University

WEST MIDLANDS

45.

The University of Birmingham

46.

The University of Keele

47.

The University of Warwick


48.

The University of Bradford

YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER

49.

The University of Hull

50.

The University of Leeds

51.

The University of Sheffield

52.

The University of York


53.

Aberystwyth University

WALES

54.

Bangor University

55.

Cardiff University

56.

Trinity St Davids (Lampeter)

57.

Swansea University


58.

The University of Aberdeen

SCOTLAND

59.

The University of Dundee

60.

The University of Edinburgh

61.

The University of Glasgow

62.

Heriot-Watt University

63.

The University of St Andrews

64.

The University of Stirling

65.

The University of Strathclyde


66.

The Queen's University of Belfast

NORTHERN IRELAND

67.

University of Ulster

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