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University staff overwhelmingly back strike action in USS pensions row

22 January 2018

Sixty-one universities (see list below) could face widespread disruption next month after UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action in a row over changes to their pensions in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Overall, 88% of UCU members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%^. A full breakdown of the results by institution is available here.

The union's higher education committee is meeting now to discuss the results and plan an industrial action strategy should talks about the future of the scheme fail to deliver a solution. Those talks are currently scheduled to finish tomorrow (Tuesday).

Universities UK (UUK) wants to transform the scheme from a defined benefit scheme that gives a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme where pension income is subject to changes in the stock market.

Independent modeling of the proposals show that a typical lecturer would lose £200,000 in retirement if the UUK plans were imposed. Last week the vice-chancellors of Warwick and Loughborough universities broke ranks to criticise UUK for failing to guarantee retirement incomes for USS members.

The union said it hoped that the overwhelming mandate for strike action would focus universities' minds and that more vice-chancellors would publicly pressure UUK to agree a deal. UCU said it was happy for talks to be extended in an attempt to resolve the issue without strike action.

The union said that two rounds of cuts in USS benefits since 2011 have already left USS members with pensions worth less than those of school teachers and academics in the sector's other pension scheme, the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'UCU members have made it quite clear that they are prepared to take sustained strike action to defend their pensions.

'USS already offers worse benefits than other schemes available in universities, and UUK's proposals would make matters worse. I hope more vice-chancellors will pressure their negotiators to work with us to resolve the matter without strike action.'

Aberdeen, The University of

Aberystwyth University

Aston University

Bangor University

Bath, University of

Birkbeck College, University of London

Bristol, University of

Brunel University

Cambridge, University of

Cardiff University

City, University of London

Courtauld Institute of Art

Cranfield University

Dundee, The University of

Durham University

East Anglia, University of

Edinburgh, University of

Essex, University of

Exeter, University of

Glasgow, The University of

Goldsmiths, University of London

Heriot-Watt University

Hull, The University of

Imperial College London

Institute of Education

Keele University

Kent, The University of

King's College London

Lancaster, University of

Leeds, The University of

Leicester, University of

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Liverpool, University of

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Loughborough University

Manchester, The University of

Newcastle University

Nottingham, The University of

Open University

Oxford, University of

Queen Mary, University of London

Queen's University Belfast

Reading, University of

Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Veterinary College, University of London

Salford, The University of

Senate House, University of London

Sheffield, The University of

SOAS, University of London

Southampton, University of

St Andrews, University of

Stirling, The University of

Strathclyde, University of

Surrey, University of

Sussex, University of

University College London

Scottish Association for Marine Science (University of the Highlands and Islands)

Ulster University

University of Wales

University of Warwick

University of York

^ The overall figure includes institutions that are required to secure a 50% turnout to be able to take action (universities in England, Scotland and Wales). Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University do not require a 50% turnout.  Members in all 68 branches that were balloted voted for action. Of those, seven did not achieve the 50% turnout required. 

Last updated: 22 January 2018