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USS strikes force cancellation of Southampton science and engineering event

15 February 2018 | last updated: 20 February 2018

The University of Southampton's Science and Engineering Day has been cancelled because of staff taking strike action in a row over pensions.

Organisers said the event, scheduled for Saturday 10 March, would have to be pulled as UCU members at Southampton prepare to take industrial over the next four weeks. The union said the cancellation of the event, which 10,000 were expected to attend, was a huge disappointment, but that the blame lay squarely with university leaders.

UCU members will be taking 14 days of escalating strike action from Thursday 22 February and working to contract, which means not undertaking voluntary duties. UCU said the cancellation of the event demonstrated just how much universities rely on the goodwill of staff.

The dispute centres on universities' proposals to slash the benefits of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

The universities' representatives - Universities UK (UUK) - are seeking to push through the changes and have refused to negotiate with UCU. The union says this has left it with no alternative but to strike. UCU is asking students to get their vice-chancellors to put pressure on UUK to return to the negotiating table.

In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action. The turnout was 58%. At Southampton 88% backed strike action on a turnout of 67%. The news comes days after former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell MP pulled out of a lecture at the University of Manchester that clashed with the first day of the strikes.

University of Southampton UCU rep Catherine Pope said: 'It is incredibly disappointing that this event has had to be cancelled. This is yet another disruption to university life which could be avoided if the universities' representatives listened to the many voices urging them to come back to the negotiating table.

'Nobody wants to take strike action, but staff at Southampton feel they have been left with no choice. These hardline proposals would slash pensions and are simply uncalled for. Sir Christopher Snowden, the vice-chancellor of Southampton, should publicly call for Universities UK to commit to meaningful negotiations to try and get this dispute sorted out.'

UCU members at Southampton, and 61 other universities*, will walk out on Thursday 22 February as part of an escalating programme of strikes over a four-week period. The strike dates are:

  • Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
  • Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
  • Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
  • Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

* Universities affected by strike action

Aberdeen, 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, University of

Durham University

East Anglia, University of

Edinburgh, University of

Essex, University of

Exeter, University of

Glasgow, University of

Goldsmiths, University of London

Heriot-Watt University

Hull, University of

Imperial College London

Institute of Education

Keele University

Kent, University of

King's College London

Lancaster, University of

Leeds, University of

Leicester, University of

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Liverpool, University of

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Loughborough University

Manchester, University of

Newcastle University

Nottingham, 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, University of

Senate House, University of London

Sheffield, University of

SOAS, University of London

Southampton, University of

St Andrews, University of

Stirling, University of

Strathclyde, University of

Surrey, University of

Sussex, University of

University College London

Scottish Association for Marine Science at University of the Highlands and Islands

Ulster University

University of Wales

University of Warwick

University of York

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