Sussex University UCU members vote overwhelmingly for strike action

Strike action was proposed against changes to staff pensions

The University and College Union (UCU) has revealed that sixty-one universities across the UK have voted in favor of strike actions against changes to their pensions.

88 per cent of UCU members have voted in favor of industrial strike action and 93 per cent backed action ‘just short of a strike’. Education institutions that are part of the UCU are required to have a 50 per cent turnout so that the institution can take action. Sixty-eight institutions took part in the ballot with only seven not achieving the 50 per cent turnout.

Sussex University was one of the institutions that took part in the ballot. The turnout was 61.7 per cent with 404 out of the 655 eligible electorates taking part in the voting. Out of the 404 that voted, 91.6 per cent voted yes to strike action.

Sussex tells students that they will try their best to minimise disruption but there have been no guarantees. They’ve commented:

“If there is any Union action at Sussex, our focus will be to minimise any disruption to our students’ education.  We will ensure that we share information on any developments and campus arrangements with both students and staff.”

Overall, 24,707 people in the UK voted and 21,685 voted in favor.

According to the UCU website:

“Universities UK (UUK) wants to transform the scheme from a defined benefit scheme that gives a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme where pension income is subject to changes in the stock market.”

The UCU claims that lecturers could lose £200,000 in retirement if the UUK plans were implemented.

February 22 has been thought to be the expected day of industrial action and is expected to continue for fourteen days. UCU states:

“The first strikes would most likely start with a two-day walkout on 22 and 23 February. The action would then escalate to three-day, four-day and five-day walkouts in future weeks.

“Universities, such as Imperial and Edinburgh, with a reading week when action begins, would be allowed to start their action at a different time to maximise impact.

“The union said it would review its action and consider the next steps after those initial strike days if the dispute had not been resolved.”

UCU hopes that the ‘overwhelming mandate for strike action’ will focus universities’ minds allowing more public pressure on the UUK to arrange and deal. Strike action can be avoided altogether as the UCU said that it would be more than happy to talk to UUK to resolve the pensions issue.

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.

“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.”

Featured image courtesy of Nick Efford via Flickr