Top UK University Union Members to Strike over Pension Changes

Average professor could lose over $200k in benefits under new plan.

Furious after the Universities Superannuation Scheme announced plans to change its defined benefit schemes to defined contribution, top UK universities are planning to strike in the coming weeks.

Should last-ditch talks scheduled for Tuesday fail, the University and College Union is planning to take action February 22 with a two-day walkout, possibly leading to five-day block over a series of weeks, according to BBC.

Union members in the possible 61 universities affected by the strike will work to contract, but will not be covering classes or perform any voluntary work. They will also not make up any classes lost during the strike. The chain of affected universities includes Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, UCL, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, and York.

The BBC reports that the average professor would lose £200,000 ($279,677.81) over the duration of their retirement due to these changes.

Out of 68 universities that are members of the scheme, 61 voted in favor of striking — 88% for strikes, 93% preferred short strikes. The overall turnout was 58%.

According to a statement, the UCU “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,” and was happy for extended talks so that the issue may be resolved before a strike were to occur.

“Universities will be hit with levels of strike action not seen before on UK campuses if a deal cannot be done over the future of USS pensions. Members have made it quite clear they are prepared to take action to defend their pensions and the universities need to work with us to avoid widespread disruption,” UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said in a statement. “Even at this late stage, we urge universities to work with us to reach an agreement that protects the defined benefit element of USS pensions.”

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