Members of the University and College Union (UCU) from 65 universities have backed strike action as fears grow that changes to staff pensions could see lecturers losing £10,000 each year from their pension. However, this will not currently affect teaching staff at Birmingham.
UCU, the largest University Staff Union in the UK, voted in favour of 14 days of strike action to protest against proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the principal pension scheme for the majority of university academic staff pensions in the UK.
Why is this happening?
Staff voting in favour of the strike are angry that changes from a defined benefit scheme (where they would have a guaranteed income at retirement) to a defined contribution scheme (where their pensions would be subject to fluctuations in the stock market) would, by many estimates, reduce pension payments significantly. These changes could leave typical lecturers around £10,000 worse off each year, or up to £200k over the course of their retirement.
However, administrators of USS believe that the changes are a necessary step for the long term security of staff pensions as, due to a large funding deficit and the significant rise of future pension costs, it presently cannot afford to honour its current and future pension commitment.
While there were talks between Universities UK (UUK) and UCU in an effort to resolve differences and avoid industrial action, they ultimately proved unsuccessful and staff walkouts have now been voted for at 65 UK universities.
Will this affect students at UoB?
BUCU, the Birmingham branch of Universities and College Union, didn’t meet the 50% turnout threshold required for strike action.
- 48% of union members turned out in the first round of voting (with 84% of voters supporting the motion to strike) and
- 48.2% members voted when BUCU reopened the ballot for a second round (where 85.3% voted in favour of strike action).
This means that no industrial action is planned for University of Birmingham teaching staff this month and students will not be affected by any loss of lectures or other teaching hours.
How can I get involved?
In a joint statement, the UCU and NUS have said “the current policy of paying ever higher salaries for VCs and Principals while cutting pensions for those who do the work sends a hugely damaging signal to both students and staff.”
In support of UCU, NUS is asking students to:
- continue to call for the university employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and agree to meaningful negotiations either directly with the union or via ACAS (the arbitration service coordinating the negotiations)
- write to their institution to complain about the impact the strike will have on their learning
- participate in local demonstrative solidarity action during the strikes in support of UCU members
If you want to find out further details about the national strikes, head to the national UCU website or visit BUCU’s website for any updates about action taking place in Birmingham.