Four weeks of strikes began Thursday at 64 universities in the UK over proposed changes to the pension plans of higher education employees.
The University and College Union (UCU), which represents the striking workers, said it called for the strike after the universities’ representatives refused to resume negotiations with them. The union says the strike will affect more than 1 million students, and will result in 575,000 teaching hours lost.
The UCU said it will meet on March 2 to consider the universities’ response to the first wave of strikes, and decide what further action to take. UCU said that although it doesn’t want a prolonged dispute that drags out towards exam season, its members are “determined to fight for fair pensions.”
UCU members are striking over plans to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension plan. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.
According to UCU, analysis by actuarial consultants First Actuarial shows that a lecturer starting work today could lose £9,600 a year, or £208,000 over the course of their retirement, if the pension changes are implemented. It said the total loss in retirement for current USS members reduces with the more past service they have.
Picket lines outside entrances to universities affected by the action began at 8 am local time on Thursday, and there will be a series of events over the next four weeks including rallies on Thursday in Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, and Oxford. The strikes will also take place on, Feb. 23, Feb. 26 -Feb. 28, March 5 March 8, and March 12–March 16.
“We deliberately announced these strike dates to give universities time to come back round the table with us and get this mess sorted out,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt in a release. “They have refused to do so and want to impose their reforms on staff. Unsurprisingly, staff are angry and significant disruption on campuses across the UK now looks inevitable.”