Strike action could affect lectures and exams at University of Essex as staff seek to defend pensions

Staff at the University of Essex, pictured, could strike over pension changes. Picture: TIMOTHY SOAR

Staff at the University of Essex, pictured, could strike over pension changes. Picture: TIMOTHY SOAR - Credit: Archant

The University of Essex is among more than 60 institutions set for strike action next month over pensions – however staff at the University of Suffolk are not expected to take part.

Staff at the University of Suffolk are not likely to strike after a ballot on industrial action rece

Staff at the University of Suffolk are not likely to strike after a ballot on industrial action received insufficient responses. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have planned a series of walkouts starting on February 22 and 23 unless the dispute over proposed changes to a pension scheme is resolved.

Lectures, classes and exams at 61 universities could be affected – including the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia – if UCU pushes ahead with industrial action.

Essex UCU president Catherine Crawford said the local ballot saw 91.2% of academics support strike action if necessary, with a “strong” turnout of 61.5%.

“Only a year ago we lost our final-salary pensions, leaving academics with lower pensions than most teachers,” Dr Crawford added.


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“Now the universities want to end guaranteed pension benefits, while raising our contributions by 7.5%.

“Let us hope that this overwhelmingly clear union mandate will make the employers more constructive than they have been so far.”

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Staff at the University of Suffolk are not expected to take part in industrial action, however, after a ballot had insufficient turnout to achieve a mandate.

A university spokesman said 27% voted for strike action and 31% for action short of a strike.

“With a turnout of less than 40% of eligible voters the ballot failed to achieve a mandate for legitimate industrial action and so we do not anticipate disruption to any of the services we provide,” the spokesman added. “However, we are mindful of the importance of pensions to our staff and hope that a resolution to the current position will be found swiftly by those negotiating at the national table.”

The dispute centres on proposed changes to pensions covered by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). It could see next month’s strikes followed by three-day, four-day and five-day walkouts in future weeks.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “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.”

A Universities UK (UUK) spokeswoman said: “The prospect of industrial action at 61 out of the 68 higher education institutions balloted by UCU is disappointing as talks between employers and the union on USS pension reform continue.

“A solution to the significant funding challenges facing USS needs to be found.

“UUK’s priority is to put USS on a secure and sustainable footing while offering attractive, market-leading pensions - the very best that can be afforded by both employers and employees.”

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